One of the interesting questions about the detention of Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has been: why now? After all, Ai has had some brushes with the authorities before, including in 2009, when he created a public list of the names of over 5,000 children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake before consequently being beaten by police and suffering a brain hemorrhage.
But a story in the South China Morning Post suggests a possible explanation. According to the report, staff in Ai’s studio said that police had visited him three days before he was detained at Beijing airport. During the visit he was apparently offered a role in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an influential group of government advisers.
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It added: 'About a week before that visit, Ai had also mentioned receiving the offer. "(But) he didn't say if it was a membership of the CPPCC at the municipal or national level, how he responded or whether he accepted it or not," one staff member said.'
Did Ai decline the offer, and was this seen by authorities as the last straw?