Ai Weiwei, one week on

Today China hit back at the tidal wave of international criticism it received following the arrest just over a week ago, of artist Ai Weiwei. 

The Guardian reports today that the Chinese authorities have produced their own human rights report, an elaborate rebuttal of the condemnation it has come in for, which aims to point out the hypocrisies in the USA’s “preaching.” 

It refers to the USA’s embarrassment over WikiLeaks revelations and accuses the US government of double standards and responsibility for civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

It must be an interesting time, to be working in communications within the Chinese government headquarters. They had a bit of a scatter-gun approach to their public output last week- in an apparent PR blunder, on Wednesday  they put out an editorial in the State press accusing Ai Weiwei of being a troublemaker who did not have the support of the people. No mention there of the economic charges that he is now facing. They’ve since gone on to accuse him of plagiarism in his work and enjoying notoriety. 

The Chinese authorities are still trying to cast Ai Weiwei’s arrest as a normal matter, and to undermine the criticism of the international community which they consider patronising and disingenuous. The problem is that the outrage is not limited to governments – a protest on the sunlit Southbank outside the Tate on Saturday involved Chinese and British artists reading out the names of the disappeared, from huge sunflower envelopes. The Tate, itself, put up huge lettering demanding his release. In a way it’s harder to aim slurs of hypocrisy, and didacticism against galleries than governments.  

Apparently the Chinese authorities are now having to undertake truly ridiculous and comical actions to "protect" themselves from their citizens- like censoring the words "today" and "tomorrow" in text messages, as these may be the seeds of organised dissent. Given the volume and the vigour of the outcry about Ai Weiwei’s detention, it may even prove more trouble than it is worth to keep him hulled up. For now, Ai Weiwei is proving as problematic in his absence, as when he was here.    

 

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