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China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Ai Weiwei & China’s Continued Crackdown on Dissent

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Ai Weiwei's self-portrait of himself and the "Grass Mud Horse" doll, another popular symbol of dissent in China.

Ai Weiwei's self-portrait of himself and the "Grass Mud Horse" doll, another popular symbol of dissent in China.

Controverisal Chinese artist and popular blogger Ai Weiwei is recovering from cranial surgery in a Munich hospital bed today.

Ai made modest media rounds in the run-up to the Olympics.  The son of famous poet Ai Qing and an internationally reknowned architect, he had been part of the team to design and build the Bird’s Nest.  He later went on to boycott the opening ceremony, calling for change in China.  In an editorail for The Guardian he wrote,

We must bid farewell to autocracy. Whatever shape it takes, whatever justification it gives, authoritarian government always ends up trampling on equality, denying justice and stealing happiness and laughter from the people.

He became an increasingly prominent critic of the government after the Sichuan earthquake.  He took it upon himself to go to Sichuan and find the names of children who had died because of porrly built school buildings, his number turning out to be far greater than that the government reported.

He posted almost 5,000 names on his personal blog (later deleted by authorities), and was determined to bring justice to the area.  He traveled to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, to testify at the trial of writer and activist Tan Zuoren who was being charged with subversion for speaking critically of the government to foreign journalists.

According to various reports, police came to Ai’s hotel room around 3am.  They detained him for 11 hours in order to ensure he would not make the trial.  It is also believed they beat him, and that beating may have lead to cranial bleeding, the cause of surgery.

Ai’s story is yet another example of the bravery of Chinese dissidents and the struggle they go through for reform.

In my last post, I wrote of progress and the need to look at the positives in China without always referencing the negative.  That does not mean ignore these brutal realities. The struggle for freedom of speech and justice deserves our attention.  To recognize signs of progress does as well.  Encouraging benevolent, peaceful solutions leads to less repressive violence.

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