This weekend we got the disturbing news that a new gay bar on the Bund was raided and dozens of its patrons were detained harshly and now more bad news, we’re afraid. It has hit the web that China’s most outspoken artist and activist Ai Weiwei has also been detained by police, now for over 24 hrs.
This past Sunday morning, Ai Weiwei was prevented from boarding a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong and taken into custody by authorities. The 53-year old artist had planned to travel on from Hong Kong to Taiwan to do talks there for an possible upcoming exhibition, according to one of his assistants. The police also took his wife, Lu Qing, and eight of his staff away for questioning on Sunday, also raiding his studio and cutting the power supply off (let’s hope it doesn’t meet a similar fate as his Shanghai one). They were all released this afternoon. Ai Weiwei, the prolific twitterer and blogger however, remains under police arrest and out of contact.
It’s hardly the first time Ai Weiwei has been in trouble with the government nor even the first time he’s been arrested. However, observers say the current crackdown is unusually troubling because Ai Weiwei has only ever expressed his personal political views and not actually organized any political activities, and secondly, because it’s violating local legal procedures that already allow for detainment of people for long periods of time. (As we mentioned with the Bund gay bar raid, the police are allowed to hold people for up to 24 hrs without formal charges.)
We’ll be watching closely as this story unfolds…