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China: Reactions to Global Times’ Lashing Out at Ai Weiwei

Three days after prominent Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei went missing, state-run newspaper Global Times broke the media silence in China by running an editorial, ‘Law will not Concede before Maverick', both in Chinese and English.

The article attacks Ai Weiwei as a ‘maverick’ (in the Chinese version, tèlìdúxíng, or ‘standing out and walking alone’) who consistently challenges legal boundaries. It also accuses the West of using human rights to violate China’s sovereignty and divert the attention of Chinese society.

Promotional billboard for an exhibit by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in Munich, Germany. Image by Flickr user sanfamedia.com (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Promotional billboard for an exhibit by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in Munich, Germany. Image by Flickr user sanfamedia.com (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Groundwork for arrest?

The article has raised fear that Ai Weiwei’s detention may not end soon, and that the authorities are possibly preparing the groundwork for a criminal arrest.

The Global Times is affiliated with the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily. Its Chinese version has often been accused of its strongly nationalistic tone, while the English version is more moderate.

Below is an extract from the English version of the editorial:

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. The West’s behavior aims at disrupting the attention of Chinese society and attempts to modify the value system of the Chinese people.

Ai Weiwei likes to do something “others dare not do.” He has been close to the red line of Chinese law. Objectively speaking, Chinese society does not have much experience in dealing with such persons. However, as long as Ai Weiwei continuously marches forward, he will inevitably touch the red line one day.

The West ignored the complexity of China’s running judicial environment and the characteristics of Ai Weiwei’s individual behavior. They simply described it as China’s “human rights suppression.” “Human rights” have really become the paint of Western politicians and the media, with which they are wiping off the fact in this world.

The article has sparked repercussions and mockery among Chinese Twitter users; the following tweets are from April 6, 2011.

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

我要问该报社:你们公布了真相吗?你们让抓艾未未的人给出抓人真相与罪名了吗?你们让广大读者搞清楚真相了吗?

I have to ask the newspaper: have you announced the truth? Have you found out the reasons and charges behind Ai Weiwei’s arrest? Have you cleared these questions for the readers?

Wen Yunchao, prominent blogger and activist (@wenyunchao):

文章沒有說艾未未哪些事觸犯法律了,真是神文,在我看來法律確實彎曲了,不過是向內彎。

The article did not mention which law Ai Weiwei has broken. This is an amazing article. In my opinion, the law has bent, albeit bending in favor of the authority.

Xu Zhiyong, prominent legal scholar and activist (@zhiyongxu):

法律不需要在任何人面前弯曲,要保护每个公民的权利,可中国的法律在强权面前不只弯曲,而是卑躬屈膝毫无尊严。艾未未即使触犯了法律,那也要有程序,毫无手续被强行带走这跟绑票什么区别?

The law does not need to bend in front of anyone, but it has to protect the rights of every citizen. But in China, the law not only has to bend in front of the authority, it even has to grovel without dignity. Even if Ai Weiwei has really broken the law, legal procedures need to be followed. What is the difference with kidnapping if a person can be taken away without following any procedures?

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

要么犯法,要么没犯法,前者请拿出法律文书来,请公开审判,你敢吗?后者,没犯法的范畴内,爱怎么特立独行是咱老百姓的权利,你觉得特立独行,我还觉着人家是举世皆浊我独清呢!感谢环球时报标题,特立独行对于一个处于黑暗时代的人,恰恰是最大的褒扬。

You have either broken the law, or not broken the law. If the former, please show us the legal documents and put up an open trial. But do you dare? If the latter, it is a citizens’ right to ‘stand out and walk along’. While you think that I’m a maverick, I am maintaining my clear mind in a murky world! Praise the title of the Global Times editorial, because describing someone as ‘standing out and walking alone’ in a dark age is the greatest praise for him.

Ja Jia, Beijing-based writer (@jajia):

环球时报中文版批评艾污蔑艾,环球时报英文版却频频采访艾赞许艾,以向英文世界”报道一个真实的中国”。这样神魂颠倒、利令智昏、自相矛盾、唯利是图、唾面自干的媒体,真是中国媒体的第二大败类!

The Chinese version of the Global Times criticizes and blasts Ai Weiwei, while the English version often interviews and praises him in order to ‘report the real China’ to the English world. What a confused, profit-minded and contradictory media. A scum in the Chinese media community!

He Qinglian, United States-based Chinese academic (@HeQinglian):

《环球时报》这段话值得琢磨:“他很多时候离中国法律的红线不远,….客观说,在如何对待他这样的人的问题上,中国社会的经验并不多,法律的判例也不多。”这文章如果是上面授意,那应该是目前还未想好用什么罪名治老艾。

This sentence is worthy of further thoughts: “He has been close to the red line of Chinese law. Objectively speaking, Chinese society does not have much experience in dealing with such persons.” If this editorial is approved by the highest levels of the Chinese authority, then we can conclude that the leaders have yet to decide the charges on which to indict Ai Weiwei.

Joshua Rosenzweig, of the Hong Kong-based China human rights group Dui Hua Foundation (@siweiluozi):

按照《环球时报》的社论,中国法律的红线似乎一清二楚。那个红线真的比宪法对言论自由、公民有权批评政府等保障条款那么清楚吗?

According to the Global Times, the red line of the Chinese law seems to be crystal clear. But is that red line really as clear as the freedom of speech, right to criticize the government and other citizenship protections enshrined in the Constitution?

Galileo Cheng, Hong Kong media worker and columnist (@galileo44):

環球時報社論也挺逗的,都把中國的特別複雜而無前例情況點出來了:「…客觀說,在如何對待他這樣的人的問題上,中國社會的經驗並不多,法律的判例也不多。但只要艾未未不斷「往前衝」,他有一天「觸線」是很可能的事…」「西方在無視中國司法運行的複雜環境,也無視艾未未個人行為的複雜特點…」

This editorial of the Global Times is funny. It has aptly described the particular and unprecedented situation in China: ‘Objectively speaking, Chinese society does not have much experience in dealing with such persons. However, as long as Ai Weiwei continuously marches forward, he will inevitably touch the red line one day.’ ‘The West ignored the complexity of China’s running judicial environment and the characteristics of Ai Weiwei’s individual behavior.’

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

环球论调纯法西斯化:民族崛起至上,若少数人特立独行,就要付出代价,即时法律也帮不了他

The Global Times argument is essentially fascist: the rise of the race is of supremacy. Those who choose to ‘stand out and walk alone’ would have to pay the costs. Even the law cannot help them.

Lian Yue, well-known social critic and blogger (@lianyue):

环球时报评论员语文基础太差,大批判文章竟然用“特立独行”这样的褒义词。

Commentators at the Global Times have a really poor command of language. How can they use commendatory phrase ‘standing out and walking alone’ in a critical article.

Netizen @zashi:

环球时报意思是:aiww肯定犯罪了,但是罪名我们正在找。给我们点时间,我们一定能找到

The meaning of Global Times is: Ai Weiwei has broken the law; this is a given. But we are still looking for the charges. Give us some time; we will be able to find it.

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