RAN 16/11: CHINA

April 11, 2011

RAN 16/11

CHINA: Prominent artist and critic Ai Weiwei detained; fears for safety.

PEN International is seriously concerned for the welfare of internationally renowned artist and prominent government critic Ai Weiwei following his arrest at Beijing airport on April 3, 2011. PEN calls for his immediate and unconditional release and that of all those currently detained in China for the peaceful expression of their views. It seeks urgent guarantees of the safety of Ai Weiwei and demands that he is given full access to his family and legal representation immediately.

According to PEN’s information, Ai Weiwei was detained at Beijing International Airport on April 3, 2011 while preparing to board a flight to Hong Kong, where he had been due to participate in artistic exchange activities. Later that day police raided his home and studio, questioned his wife and eight assistants, and confiscated computers. No news was given about his whereabouts or the reason for his arrest until 8 April 2011, when it was reported by the official Chinese News Agency Xinhua that Ai Weiwei was under investigation for suspected involvement in ‘economic crimes’. His arrest appears to be part of a widespread crackdown on dissent in which writers, journalists and human rights defenders are amongst those to have been targeted since mid-February 2011 (see previous alerts for details). Ai Weiwei’s whereabouts remain unknown and there are mounting concerns for his welfare.

Ai Weiwei, aged 53, is an internationally recognized artist who co-designed the Olympic Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing. He is one of the most prominent of China's government critics, and has commented frequently on social injustice, including the detentions of fellow dissidents and government corruption, on his widely followed Twitter page and blog. In recent years Ai Weiwei has been repeatedly harassed, and in August 2009 was badly beaten by Chengdu police for attempting to testify in the trial of imprisoned dissident writer Tan Zuren, with whom Ai had worked on an investigation into student casualties of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. On 14 September 2009, Ai was diagnosed with a cerebral hemorrhage which is believed to be linked to the police attack, and he underwent emergency brain surgery at a hospital in Munich, Germany. In January 2011 his Shanghai studio was destroyed by the authorities.

Ai Weiwei's first book, Time and Place, was published by Guangxi Normal University Press in September 2010. The book is a collection of essays on art, architecture and reviews selected from his online publications in his blogs, which have been closed down since his detention. Its complete uncensored version in Chinese will be published in Hong Kong later this year.

Sign the petition below to send the following appeals:

  • Protesting the arrest of prominent artist and critic Ai Weiwei, whose arrest appears to be part of a recent crackdown on dissent in which writers, journalists and human rights defenders are amongst those targeted;
  • Reminding the Chinese authorities of their obligations under Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which it is a signatory;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in the P.R.China for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression, including Ai Weiwei.

Seeking immediate guarantees of Ai Weiwei’s safety and urging that he is given full access to his family, legal representation and any necessary medical care as a matter of urgency.

Appeals will be sent to:

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council Beijing 100032 P.R. China


Director of the Beijing Public Security Bureau
MA Zhenchuan Juzhang
Beijingshi Gong'anju
9 Dongdajie, Qianmen
Beijingshi 100740
People's Republic of China.

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