Chinese authorities detained well-known artist and government critic Ai
Weiwei to keep him and others from testifying at the trial of an
activist who investigated the collapse of schools in last year's
Ai Weiwei was
detained at a hotel in the city of Chengdu. Police released him later
in the day and he boarded a plane to Beijing. Speaking from the
Chengdu airport, he says about 30 police came to his room claiming they
were doing a routine check.
"They just kicked on the door and
yell and said, 'Police, everybody out!' It was like, how do you say, a
Hollywood movie," he said. "I said 'how do I know you are police?' He
said 'let me show you', and just kicked the door open, the lock [is]
The co-designer of the Bird's Nest - the national
stadium that was home to the 2008 Beijing Olympics - says when he
pressed the police to state their purpose, he was punched in the face.
Some of the 10 volunteers with him were taken into custody, while he
and others were detained in the hotel room for 11 hours.
in Chengdu to testify at the trial of Tan Zuoren. He faces subversion
charges, most likely linked to his investigation of schoolchildren's
deaths in last year's Sichuan earthquake. China frequently uses the
charge of subversion to imprison dissidents.
The artist was to
testify about his own investigation into problems with school
construction in the earthquake area. Ai organized volunteers to
collect names of child quake victims. His volunteers went to Sichuan
to film interviews with families who lost children.
5,300 children died in the earthquake because their school buildings
collapsed. Parents of many of the victims complain that the schools
were poorly built because of corruption or neglect.
lawyers asked to call Ai and two other witnesses, but were refused.
They also asked to show video filmed by Ai's volunteers, the court
rejected that request, too.
The trial ended Wednesday afternoon, and Ai was released after that. It is not known when the court will issue a verdict.
Ai says this was a learning experience for him about the legal system in China.
is completely a fake trial, it is all set up," he said. "They
submitted some of my evidence to the court, but it does not matter. No
matter how [much] evidence you have they will never change. It is
Some of Ai's volunteers are still in custody. Ai
says he has a right to sue the police for assaulting him, but he feels
it is pointless.
"If you sue them you still have to apply in
their court, and you can never succeed. That is why many people give
up on the so-called lawful channels," he said.
International and Human Rights Watch have urged China to drop charges
against Tan and another earthquake activist, Huang Qi, calling the
prosecutions politically motivated. Huang was tried last week for
illegally possessing state secrets, but as yet, no verdict has been
During the past several weeks, the government has
increasingly clamped down on activists and groups that question its
actions. Political analysts say it appears the Communist Party wants
to shut off dissent before the 60th anniversary of the creation of the
People's Republic of China, in October.