China Power

What Next for Ai Weiwei?

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China Power

What Next for Ai Weiwei?

Detained artist Ai Weiwei has been allowed to see his wife. But the authorities are staying quiet.

I ran a few updates on the case of Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei following his somewhat mysterious detention by police as he was boarding a plane for Hong Kong in early April.

Ai’s detention came as Chinese authorities appeared to intensify their crackdown on dissent, possibly over fears that the so-called Arab Spring could inspire similar calls for reform in China. A few days after he was arrested, one report suggested that Ai was being held for ‘economic crimes.’ However, little had been heard about his case or conditions—until this week.

Reuters reported Monday that Ai was allowed to see his wife, Lu Qing, briefly on Sunday for the first time since he was detained. According to the report, Lu said to AP that: ‘He seemed conflicted, contained, his face was tense.’

Ai’s elder sister, Gao Ge, meanwhile, reportedly said Lu was told by the authorities that she could only ask questions about Ai's health during the meeting.

‘She couldn't mention anything about the case,’ Gao Ge is quoted as having said. ‘Weiwei said that up till now, he hasn't been subject to mistreatment…He said they've arranged everything, with regards to clothing, eating and housing.’

What will be interesting to see now is if the authorities will pursue the economic charges of tax evasion, or focus on the claims that came out a couple of weeks after his arrest of bigamy and spreading pornography of himself on the internet.

Either way, the authorities are doing the country’s image no good with their continued silence on the issue. But then, the government has demonstrated repeatedly with its actions over the past year or so that it doesn’t appear to care what anyone else thinks of it.

On a related note, CNN has an interesting interview with documentary filmmaker Alison Klayman, who is currently trying to incorporate Ai’s detention into her film ‘Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,’ which is to be released in the autumn.

The full interview is here, but one answer I thought was particularly interesting was Klayman’s response to the question of how Ai has previously dealt with Beijing in the past:

‘What I think will be surprising to audiences is Weiwei's willingness to engage with and work within the existing legal and governmental structures to affect change. Direct engagement is often the mechanism through which he reveals ineffective governance or failure of specific offices or agencies in fulfilling their duties to the public. That combined with transparency is really his tactic.’