Chinese fans of outspoken artist and activist Ai Weiwei have found a new way of sending a message to Chinese authorities determined to silence him – stripping off and posting their images on a new web page.
The move is in response to the announcement by Chinese police that Ai is being investigated on charges of pornography relating to his work. As the BBC noted today, the site, entitled “Listen Chinese government: Nudity is not pornography,” includes men and women of varying ages and sizes.
The authorities insist that the investigation is legitimate, but many commentators believe that the latest charges are a further effort to silence Ai, who has been vocal in his criticism of the government over freedom of speech and other rights issues.
Last week, Ai said police had questioned his assistant over a portrait he had taken of a seated Ai, who is surrounded in the photo by four naked women. “This is completely ridiculous,” Ai is quoted by News24 as saying. “Our nation today is so corrupt, with so much sex, but they think [nude] photos on the internet are pornography.”
This latest investigation follows the announcement earlier this month that Ai had been slapped with a $2.4 million bill for outstanding taxes and penalties.
Soon after the announcement, supporters from across the country started sending checks totaling about $1.4 million to help Ai pay his debts.
Ai was detained for more than two months as he tried to board a plane to Hong Kong earlier this year in a secret location. Among the conditions of his release in June were that he wouldn’t speak to foreign media and that he wouldn’t use social networking sites.
However, within weeks Ai had broken the latter agreement, signing up for a Google+ account, before taking to Twitter again. He followed this up be penning a scathing piece for Newsweek in August that made international headlines by likening Beijing to a prison, and the poor that arrive there each day looking for work as ‘slaves.’
Ai had at one point seemed immune from government persecution due to his international renown and personal background – his father was Ai Qing, considered one of China’s greatest modern poets. But in 2009, after conducting his own investigation, Ai created a public list of the names of over 5,000 children that were killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake after the government had refused to disclose the number of lives lost. Ai was reportedly beaten by police and suffered a brain hemorrhage.