by correspondent Yan Liang and by the BBC documentary her April 19 post has drawn my
attention to, I have been looking for more information about Chinese artist Ai
Weiwei, who has not been heard from since his arrest early this month.
those of us unable to read Mandarin, The
Guardian is a good source, with reports from Tania Branigan in Beijing and
this moving video on its site. Ai speaks on camera about his father, a popular poet
banished to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, and the impact of that on his own career as an activist.
father’s experience definitely has to bear some weight. I have to speak for the
generations who don’t have any way to speak out. Before they speak out the
first sentence, they are crushed. I also have to speak out for the people
around me who are afraid […] So I want to set an example: You can do it. And this
is OK, to speak out.
the social campaigns website Change.org, which hosts a petition calling for
Ai’s release, has alleged that Chinese hackers made the site inaccessible on
Monday. According to Branigan, the US-based site has since stabilized the
Weiwei is not the only prominent victim of a crackdown by Chinese authorities.
As novelist Salman Rushdie writes this morning in The New York Times,
writer Liao Yiwu was denied permission to travel to the United States to attend
the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature (which begins in New
York April 25), “and there are fears that he could be the regime’s
Liu Xianbin was sentenced last
month to prison for incitement to subversion, the same charge leveled against Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, currently serving an 11-year term.
Rushdie concludes this morning's op-ed piece by saying,
figures like Mr. Ai and his colleagues are often the only ones with the courage
to speak truth against the lies of tyrants. We needed the samizdat
truth-tellers to reveal the ugliness of the Soviet Union. Today the government
of China has become the world’s greatest threat to freedom of speech, and so we
need Ai Weiwei, Liao Yiwu and Liu Xiaobo.