The story of Ai Weiwei’s arrest has been told all around the world but that four of his friends have also disappeared due to their connections with Ai is just starting to garner attention.
The Guardian reports the last time anyone heard from fellow Beijing artist Wen Tao:
On 3 April, shortly after Ai Weiwei’s detention, a concerned contact tweeted the artist’s friend Wen Tao to ask if he was ok.
“So far so good,” replied Wen, who had been spending much of his time at the studio. An hour later three men dragged him into a black car in the Caochangdi art district of north Beijing and drove away.
Wen, 38, has been missing for seven weeks now, his detention just a few hours shorter than that of the world-renowned artist. Yet his case has barely been reported. It has sparked no protests overseas; no politicians have stood up to condemn it.
“Ai is grabbing a lot of attention but people like Wen Tao are not as famous,” said Wen’s girlfriend Shi Qing. “[They] can do whatever they want [to him] and therefore the danger for him is bigger. I just hope that more people will pay attention to this case. It’s related to Ai’s. As long as Ai’s case is not clear, he [Wen] won’t be released.”
Besides Wen, designer Liu Zhenggang, Ai’s driver and cousin Zhang Jinsong and accountant Hu Mingfen have all disappeared. Their families have tried to report them missing to the police but were consistently turned away. Ai’s supporters speculate that police are trying to extract information from these few that could implicate Ai on the “economic charges” the government has brought against him.