The detention of China’s most famous artist and political critic, Ai Weiwei, is a troubling development in a widening crackdown on dissent that has seen dozens of activists detained over the last few months, Amnesty International has said.
Police detained Ai Weiwei at Beijing airport on 3 April 2011. His wife and several members of his studio staff were also briefly detained on the weekend.
“Ai Weiwei was not even involved in any call for ‘Jasmine’ protests. There seems to be no reason whatsoever for his detention, other than that the authorities are trying to broadcast the message that China’s time for open dissent has come to an end,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific.
Since online calls for Chinese ‘Jasmine Revolution’ protests inspired by people’s movements in the Middle East and North Africa began circulating in late February, the Chinese authorities have rounded up dozens of activists, lawyers and bloggers.
“We've already seen the chilling effect the ‘Jasmine Revolution’-related arrests have had on Chinese activists and netizens over the past month. Holding Ai Weiwei takes this to another level,” said Ms Guest.
“If the authorities are so bold as to grab this world-renowned artist in broad daylight at Beijing airport, it’s frightening to think how they might treat other, lesser known dissidents,” she added.