Ai Weiwei calls Beijing "a city of violence"
30 Aug 2011

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has attacked injustices in China in a candid and scathing article posted on Newsweek magazine’s website.

He writes of Beijing,

Beijing is two cities. One is of power and of money. People don’t care who their neighbors are; they don’t trust you. The other city is one of desperation. I see people on public buses, and I see their eyes, and I see they hold no hope. They can’t even imagine that they’ll be able to buy a house. They come from very poor villages where they’ve never seen electricity or toilet paper.


Officials who wear a suit and tie like you say we are the same and we can do business. But they deny us basic rights. You will see migrants’ schools closed. You will see hospitals where they give patients stitches—and when they find the patients don’t have any money, they pull the stitches out. It’s a city of violence.

He adds,

The worst thing about Beijing is that you can never trust the judicial system. Without trust, you cannot identify anything; it’s like a sandstorm. You don’t see yourself as part of the city—there are no places that you relate to, that you love to go. No corner, no area touched by a certain kind of light. You have no memory of any material, texture, shape. Everything is constantly changing, according to somebody else’s will, somebody else’s power.

He also alludes to his own 81 day-detention:

My ordeal made me understand that on this fabric, there are many hidden spots where they put people without identity. With no name, just a number. They don’t care where you go, what crime you committed. They see you or they don’t see you, it doesn’t make the slightest difference. There are thousands of spots like that. Only your family is crying out that you’re missing. But you can’t get answers from the street communities or officials, or even at the highest levels, the court or the police or the head of the nation. My wife has been writing these kinds of petitions every day, making phone calls to the police station every day. Where is my husband? Just tell me where my husband is. There is no paper, no information.

Ai’s remarks come just days after reports surfaced that claimed the People’s Republic was planning to give police legal powers to hold some suspects for up to six months without telling their next of kin of their whereabouts or charges against them. Human rights activists and legal scholars have said the move would legitimise, and potentially increase, detentions.

Ai’s arrest was the most high-profile in a large-scale crackdown in which dozens of Chinese activists, dissidents and lawyers were held this year. State media said he was held for “economic crimes”, though his supporters and family have claimed he was targeted due to his social and political activism. Ai was released in June “because of his good attitude in confessing” and health concerns.

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