China Tells Outsiders Not to Meddle in Probe of Olympic Artist
China lashed out against mounting international criticism of its investigation of artist Ai Weiwei for “economic crimes” and said outsiders shouldn’t meddle in a case that has nothing to do with human rights.
China is a country ruled by law and “other countries have no right to interfere,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters today in Beijing. The probe of Ai is “on suspicion of economic crimes, it has nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression.”
Ai’s reported detention has resulted in the strongest overseas condemnation since China began a crackdown against activists calling for nationwide rallies in February. China has detained dozens of activists and placed restrictions on foreign journalists seeking to report on the protests inspired by pro- democracy movements that have swept across the Middle East.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle yesterday summoned Chinese ambassador Wu Hongbo to discuss Ai, who was reportedly taken into custody April 3 while trying to board a Hong Kong-bound plane in Beijing. Police have taken away some employees at Ai’s Beijing workshop for questioning, Radio Television Hong Kong reported today, citing Ai’s mother Gao Ying. The Hong Kong government-funded broadcaster didn’t say how many workers were arrested.
“We are very worried about the continuing detention of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei,” Westerwelle, who is also vice chancellor, said in a statement on the Foreign Ministry’s website. The ambassador was called in “to ensure that our clear and unambiguous message reaches the Chinese government.”
Future ambassadors “will continue to speak up in defense of social activists, like Liu Xiaobo, Chen Guangcheng and now Ai Weiwei, who challenge the Chinese government to serve the public in all cases and at all times,” Huntsman said in a speech in Shanghai.
Liu won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his struggle to promote human rights and democracy. Chen, a rights activist, was released last year after being sentenced in 2006 to four years and three months in prison.
China yesterday first attacked western governments, media and human-rights groups for criticizing the detention, saying in a commentary in the state-sanctioned Global Times website that the artist “will pay a price for his special choice.”
‘Abide by Law’
Hong said today: “The Chinese government guarantees the freedom of expression of Chinese citizens, but in the meantime Chinese citizens must abide by law and act within the framework of the law.”
Ai’s Twitter page, which has more than 75,000 followers, contains posts supportive of more democracy in China and critical of Communist Party rule. Twitter’s website, which is blocked by China’s government, isn’t available to most of the country’s more than 450 million Internet users. One of Ai’s exhibits, featuring millions of ceramic sunflower seeds, is on display at the turbine hall of London’s Tate Modern gallery.
Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung on April 4 published what it said was Ai’s last interview before his arrest. He said the Chinese authorities had destroyed his new studio in Shanghai and prevented a planned exhibition in Beijing.
“Recently they have been putting more and more people in jail, just because they write something on Twitter or on a blog,” he told the newspaper.
Ai collaborated on the design of the Olympic Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, working with the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.
The European Union on April 5 called for China “to refrain from using arbitrary detention” and Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council yesterday urged China to release Ai, according to a statement posted on the council’s website.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at email@example.com
Bloomberg moderates all comments. Comments that are abusive or off-topic will not be posted to the site. Excessively long comments may be moderated as well. Bloomberg cannot facilitate requests to remove comments or explain individual moderation decisions.