News / Asia

China Dismisses International Concern Over Missing Artist Activist

Chinese Avant-Garde artist Ai Weiwei is pictured at the Theater am Goetheplatz in Bremen, northern Germany, on Oct. 4, 2009.
Chinese Avant-Garde artist Ai Weiwei is pictured at the Theater am Goetheplatz in Bremen, northern Germany, on Oct. 4, 2009.
Stephanie Ho

A state-run Chinese newspaper is brushing aside international concerns over the fate of prominent activist-artist Ai Weiwei, who has not been heard from since he was detained Sunday.

The state-run Global Times newspaper Wednesday broke the Chinese media silence over the case of Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei, by running Chinese and English language versions of an article blasting him.

It calls the 53-year-old Ai a maverick who lacks respect for China’s laws and has pushed the limits of legal tolerance.  The article also accuses Western critics of using Ai’s case to attack China’s human rights record and undermine social and judicial sovereignty.

Authorities detained Ai on Sunday, after stopping him in Beijing as he was boarding a flight to Hong Kong.  Shortly afterwards, police searched his home and studio, and removed computers and other items.

Western governments and human rights activists have condemned the disappearance and demanded the artist’s release.  They also expressed concern about China’s growing use of arbitrary detentions against dissidents.

Ai’s disappearance comes amid a massive crackdown on less well-known Chinese lawyers and activists, following online calls for protests in China similar to the "Jasmine Revolution" demonstrations that have led to changes of government in the Middle East.

Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, who is close to Ai’s family, says if Ai indeed has been detained, his family should have been notified within 24 hours.  The lawyer says at this point, the family can only make guesses and is consulting with relevant authorities.  But he said they have not received any formal notice and do not even know what the main charges against him are.

Officials and police have made no comment on Ai’s case.

The burly, bearded Ai is one of China’s most famous contemporary artists and the son of one of China’s most famous poets, Ai Qing.  Ai is best known internationally for helping design the main stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Bird’s Nest.

Ai became increasingly critical of the Chinese government following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, when he took up the cause of the thousands of children who were killed when their shoddily built schools collapsed.

Sichuan authorities beat him when he was there in 2009 to attend the trial of another earthquake activist who also criticized corrupt officials for shoddy school construction.

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