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China: Ai Weiwei Detained, Initial Twitter Reactions

China’s best known artist and dissident, Ai Weiwei, was detained in Beijing as he tried to board a flight to Hong Kong on Sunday 3 April, 2011. Ai is the latest to join a long list of human rights activists, lawyers and writers who have been arrested, detained or gone missing in the country.

It is commonly held that he is somehow protected from official crackdown by his international reputation and the status of his father, a renowned poet. If Ai is not immune, it is a worrying signal that China’s crackdown on dissent has reached a whole new level.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Image by Flickr user DigiPub (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Image by Flickr user DigiPub (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Below are selected initial reactions of Ai Weiwei’s detention on Twitter, where some of China’s most liberal minds gather. An online Twitter petition, Free Ai Weiwei, so far signed by hundreds of people, has also been set up.

Mo Zhixu, prominent writer and critic (@mozhixu):

记得元旦时与艾未未对话,我还明确地认为,像艾未未冉云飞这样不党不群的单干户,当局不太好下手,所以应该比较安全;如今看来,北非事态改变了这一态势,有人要提前动手,以免再出现一个乃至更多个刘晓波。可是,没有刘晓波们就万事大吉了吗?
3:11 PM Apr 4th

I remember talking with Ai Weiwei during New Year’s Eve. I said that the authority will find it difficult to deal with people like Ai Weiwei and Ran Yunfei, who act individually and are not affiliated with any party. They are safe. Now, events in North Africa have changed everything. Someone has to act sooner, so as to prevent the emergence of another Liu Xiaobo. However, can you say everything is alright just by eliminating the likes of Liu Xiaobo?

Chang Ping, outspoken journalist and commentator, formerly with the Southern Media Group (@chang_ping):

中午在香港中文大学新闻与传播学院演讲时提到,@aiww被拘后,纽约客记者称中国舆论进入严寒,令我想到1995年的报刊大整顿,那以后媒体业进入新的爆发期。
11:17 PM Apr 4th

While making a speech to the media faculty of the Chinese University of Hong Kong this afternoon, I mentioned that the journalist of The New Yorker described that China’s media is entering an ice age following the detention of Ai Weiwei. This makes me think of the crackdown on the print media in 1995, which was followed by an age of explosive growth.

Liu Xiaoyun, Beijing-based human rights lawyer (@liu_xiaoyuan):

艾未未被带走了,工作室被搜查了,不论艾未未的对与错,这都是特大新闻,特大热点。没想到呀,没想到,国内媒体竟然齐患失语症,又装聋来又装哑,悲哀,实在是悲哀!
12:14 AM Apr 5th

Ai Weiwei is being detained, his workshop being searched. Whether Ai is right or wrong, this is a big news and an important topic. I cannot imagine that the Chinese media is uniformly silent. This is such as tragedy!

Feng Zhenghu, Shanghai-based human rights activist (@fzhenghu):

呼吁释放艾末末、文涛及所有失踪的中国人。就象龙应台所说:如果你觉得别人的不幸与你无关,那么有一天不幸发生在你身上时,也没有人会在意。保护他人的不法遭遇,也是在保护自己。#aiww
11:21 PM Apr 4th

Call for the release of Ai Weiwei, Wentao and other missing persons in China. As Lung Ying-tai said, if you think that other people’s misfortune is none of your business, then one day when misfortune descends upon you, no one will care. Protecting other people from unlawful acts is also to protect yourself.

Shi Feike, journalist and activist (@shifeike):

情况已经很明显了,如白天和几个朋友吃饭时所述的一样,此前都只是在扫清外围,抓郭大侠,抓刘晓原,抓李天天,乃至今天抓文涛,目的都是为抓大胖子服务。党和政府精通兵法,深谋远虑。
8:08 PM Apr 3rd

The situation is clear. Like what I said to my friends, earlier arrests and detentions, like those targeting Guo Daxa, Liu Xiaoyun, Li Tiantian and Wentao, were just clearing surrounding obstacles. The ultimate target is Ai Weiwei. The party and government seem to be well versed with tactics and foresight.

@shifeike: 我理解,艾神的资源、个性、名气以及别具一格的刀法,使得他成为公民维权运动中的钉子户。当局此次,不过是一次针对钉子户的定点清除式强拆而已。
4:05 PM Apr 4th

My understanding is that Ai’s resources, character, reputation and unique style have made him a ‘nail’ in the rights defense movement. The authority is making a targeted action this time in order to remove this nail.

Ai Xiaoming, feminist literary scholar, documentary filmmaker and human rights activist (@xiaocao07):

艾未未也许很激进,但他也嘲笑茉莉花,他也退出08宪章,他也攻击刘晓波,他还讽刺崔卫平。而艾未未之依然得人望,则在于他干了很多具体的好事,为孩子们呐喊,为冤死者说话,坚持自由表达。现在打压艾未未,就不是针对茉莉花而是针对所有人向往的公平正义和真相了。
8:21 PM Apr 3rd

Ai Weiwei is progressive. But he also mocked the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in China, withdrew his signature of Charter 08, and even attacked Liu Xiaobo and Cui Weiping. That he can maintain his reputation is because he has done a lot of good deeds. Shouting out for children and aggrieved persons, and insisting on the freedom of expression. The present crackdown on Ai Weiwei is not targeted at the ‘Jasmine Revolution’; it is targeted at all people who aspire to justice and truth.

@xiaocao07: 今天推特上看不到艾未未,今天,你就可以成为艾未未。如果你喜欢他,你就像他那样去生活,像他那样去爱亲人,爱朋友,爱孩子,爱小猫小狗,爱那些受苦的人并且为他们说话。无数个你成为了艾未未,中国就真正达到了幸福高指数。
12:11 PM Apr 4th

Today we cannot see Ai Weiwei on Twitter. But today you can become Ai Weiwei. If you love him, live like him. Like Ai Weiwei, love your relatives, friends, children, cats and dogs, and speak for aggrieved people. When innumerable people become Ai Weiwei, China will become a truly blessed state.

Peng Xiaoyun, opinion page editor of Guangzhou-based Time Weekly Magazine (@Pengxiaoyun):

他都算不上政治异见,他所从事的,只是日复一日地记录那些逝去的孩子的生日;他所关注的,只是公民对真相的渴求;他所展示的,只是一个艺术家可能介入社会的方式;他所呼号的,只是个体丰富的想象力和可能性。容不下他,已经是穷途末路了,决策者意图把自己“信息难民”的身份进行到底。
8:46 PM Apr 3rd

He cannot be counted as a political dissent. What he has done is just recording the names of lost children day after day. What he cares about is just a citizen’s quest for truth. What he has shown is just how an artist can participate in society. What he has called for is just the rich imagination and possibility of the individual. If even these cannot be tolerated, then it is the dead end. It is apparent that policy makers are determined to become ‘information refugees’.

@Pengxiaoyun: 至于为什么对艾动手,我想决策机制是“防卫过当”了,也属于信息不对称导致的恐惧,恐惧不独人民才有,合法性问题未能妥善解决的统治者更怕。他们对于艾在网络上一呼百应的状况感到恐惧,但我不得不说,这种网络的弱联系距离社会运动的强联系还差得老远,现在就抓人劳民伤财,维稳经费又冲天价了。
3:47 PM Apr 4th

On why the authority has decided to take action on Ai Weiwei, I think it is that the defense mechanism of the ruling party has over-reacted. This is due to fear caused by information asymmetry. Fear is not unique to the people. Rulers whose legitimacy problems are not resolved are also fearful. They are fearful about Ai’s tremendous followings on the Internet. But I must also add that such weak associations on the Internet are still very far away from those needed for a social movement. However, even with such weak associations, the authority is already arresting so many people. The stability preservation budgets must be reaching new heights.

@Pengxiaoyun: 老艾展示了一个艺术家如何介入社会,他颠覆了中国传统的知识分子形象,少了那股明哲保身的中庸小聪明和酸文人气,他有国际视野,他幽默可爱,他深谙公民运动的边界,他并不是政治革命家,不过现在当局努力在培养一位政治对手。
8:07 PM Apr 4th

Ai has shown how an artist can participate in social affairs. He has overthrown the traditional image of China’s intellectuals – self-preserving, moderate, and pedantic. He has international visions, he is humorous and lovely, and he is well versed with the boundaries of civil movement. He is not a politician, but the authority is helping to nurture a political opponent for itself.

Wang Dan, student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement (@wangdan1989):

如果真的抓了艾未未,而民間沒有抗議的浪潮出來的話,我覺得當局以后會更加動不動就抓人。今天不出來聲援,明天下一個被抓的就可能是自己
9:57 PM Apr 3rd

If Ai Weiwei is really being arrested, and a wave of protest does not emerge from the civil society, this will embolden the authority to arrest people at random in future. If we do not support Ai today, the one being arrested tomorrow will be ourselves.

@wangdan1989: 讓當局停止抓人的唯一辦法,就是太多的人站出來,讓他們無法繼續抓下去。
10:01 PM Apr 3rd

The only way to stop the authority from arresting more people is to let too many people stand out to the extent that the authority cannot continue to arrest.

@wangdan1989: 從劉賢斌到冉云飛,從冉云飛到艾未未,當局最近一連串的動作不是偶然和松散的。這顯然是經過最高當局討論批準的一個決策。這個決策是誰做出來的?胡錦濤?周永康?溫家寶?中共一定要有一個人為這次的鎮壓負責。我們要找出這個人來,聲討他,讓他成為歷史上邪惡人物的代名詞。
10:24 PM Apr 3rd

From Liu Xianbin to Ran Yunfei, from Ran Yunfei to Ai Weiwei, the actions of the authority are not made at random. This is clearly a decision from the highest levels of the authority. Who makes this decision? Hu Jintao? Zhou Yongkang? Wen Jiabao? The Chinese Communist Party must hold the person responsible for this crackdown to account. We need to find out this person, denounce him, and make his name the equivalence of evil in history.

Luo Shihong, Taiwan media academic and public intellectual (@telshl):

一直對大陸進步發展及兩岸和平前景很樂觀,艾未未事件之後,很難不動搖這種信念。大陸這麼一弄,台灣人不怕死了?唉,泱泱大國犯得著和一個藝術家這麼計較嗎?這樣一搞,原來看不懂行為藝術的人都開始看懂了。
8:48 PM Apr 3rd

I was optimistic about China’s progressive development and the cross-strait relations. Ai Weiwei’s detention has shaken my confidence. With such actions in the mainland, how can Taiwanese not be afraid? Does such a strong nation need to treat a mere artist in this way? After this incident, people who don’t understand performance arts will start to appreciate them.

@telshl: 艾未未不討所有人喜歡,但艾未未代表一種時代精神,一種做公民的精神,這種精神讓中國的空氣變得自由了些,使得人們可以放開恐懼去呼吸,不致窒息。#aiww
9:51 PM Apr 3rd

Not everyone likes Ai Weiwei. But Ai represents the spirit of the age, the spirit of being a citizen. This spirit makes China’s atmosphere become more liberal. People no longer suffocate; they can start to breathe without fear.

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