Alas, my post of late last night, in which I called for the artworld to unite in demanding the immediate release from government custody of the Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei, has not been “overtaken by events,” as I had hoped. On the contrary, this human rights emergency has grown even more alarming and even more urgently in need of a global response.
An official Chinese newspaper, Global Times, today published a vitriolic editorial, Law Will Not Concede Before Maverick. You really must read the whole thing to appreciate just how horrific is this piece of fierce propaganda.
Here are some key excerpts:
Ai Weiwei, known as an avant-garde artist, was said to have been
detained recently. Some Western governments and human rights
institutions soon called for the immediate release of Ai Weiwei,
claiming it to be China’s “human rights deterioration” while regarding
Ai Weiwei as “China’s human rights fighter.”
It is reckless collision against China’s basic political framework
and ignorance of China’s judicial sovereignty to exaggerate a specific
case in China and attack China with fierce comments before finding out
the truth [emphasis added]….
“Human rights” have really become the paint of Western politicians and
the media, with which they are wiping off the fact in this world….
Ai Weiwei chooses to have a different attitude from ordinary people
toward law. However, the law will not concede before “mavericks” just
because of the Western media’s criticism. Ai Weiwei will be judged by history, but he will pay a price [emphasis added] for his special choice, which is the same in any society.
If the Chinese authorities really want us to “find out the truth” before we deplore their actions, they should candidly disclose what “the truth” really is about Ai’s detention and current condition.
Meanwhile, Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, continues to be in the forefront of international demands for Ai’s release. Catherine Hickley and Patrick Donahue of Bloomberg report that Westerwelle “summoned Chinese ambassador Wu Hongbo to discuss” Ai’s detention. In a statement on the Foreign Ministry’s website, Westerwelle said the ambassador was called in “to ensure that our clear
and unambiguous message reaches the Chinese government,” Bloomberg reports. (As I publish this, Bloomberg’s link to its article appears to be broken. UPDATE: Now that article appears to have vanished from Bloomberg’s website—another mysterious disappearance? The piece did appear to contain one error, saying that Westerwelle was Germany’s vice chancellor, when he had, in fact, just resigned that post. UPDATE 2: Link is working again.)
One way to make that message unambiguous could be to threaten withdrawal of the works loaned to the National Museum of China by three German museums for the just-opened mega-blockbuster, The Art of Enlightenment, the opening of which Westerwelle attended last Friday, two days before Ai’s disappearance and three days before Westerwelle resigned as Germany’s vice chancellor, because his political base was eroding (as reported by the NY Times).
More importantly, the Western nations that have formally expressed to China their distress
about his circumstances should offer Ai and his family asylum and urge China to allow him to take it.
In the U.S., as Sarah Palin and John McCain can attest, “maverick” is no pejorative. We can only hope that Ai may attend the opening of his upcoming outdoor sculpture show in New York as a new and celebrated resident of this city.