Dissidents released just before Chinese premier visits the UK

JISHOU, CHINA — What a coincidence. Days before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited British Prime Minister David Cameron to sign trade deals worth $2.2 billion, Chinese officials released two prominent dissidents, Ai WeiWei and Hu Jia. Cameron, pro forma, gave some lip service to preserving human rights as he signed the trade agreements worth £1.4 billion, while Wen gave the usual Chinese reply — “MYOB” — though somewhat more diplomatically than my shorter version. Last week, Ai, an internationally known artist, was finally released on bail after being picked up in a Hong Kong airport three months ago and kept virtually incognito. He was charged officially with tax evasion, but he also has been a vocal political gadfly in China. Ai has been publicizing the names of students who died when their “tofu-construction” schools collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The state news agency reported Ai, 54, was released because he had confessed to his crimes and because he was in poor health. Prior to his arrest, Ai, his family and his associates denied any tax evasion. Hu, 37, was also released at the end of his a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence on Sunday, which apparently was his official release date. ...

Chinese authorities charge Ai WeiWei with tax evasion, bigamy

JISHOU, HUNAN — Take this news with a grain of salt, since it comes from official sources via The AP. Dissident artist Ai WeiWei, who has been detained for the last two weeks, has been charged with tax evasion, destroying evidence and bigamy. No figures were given regarding how much tax Ai owes (if any), and his family has denied the charges, anyway. “He has made the government unhappy by speaking up for ordinary people,” Ai’s sister Gao Ge told The Associated Press. “Now the government wants to get him back.” Ai has been openly critical of government officials, challenging them through China’s own legal system to uphold constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech and equal protection under the law. He was a public supporter of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who is serving a 11-year sentence in China for “inciting subversion of state power.” (As in co-authoring Charter ’08, a call for more democracy in China. Very subversive. Yeah.) The government newspaper Wen Wei Po, which is published in Hong Kong, has been smearing Ai as part of the government’s efforts to discredit him. In addition to the tax evasion charge, he is being held for allegedly ...

Prominent Chinese dissident artist Ai WeiWei “disappears”

JISHOU, HUNAN — Chinese authorities have apparently detained artist Ai WeiWei, after they prevented him from flying overseas from Hong Kong’s airport on Sunday. His whereabouts remain unknown. Following the public protests in several Middle Eastern and North African countries, China’s political bosses have been rounding up dissidents left and right, in an effort to quell any similar movements here. Ai has had several run-ins with authorities already. He was blocked from attending the ceremony awarding Liu Xiaobo (who is in prison) the Nobel Peace Prize, one of his art studios near Shanghai was bulldozed, and in recent weeks, the cops have visited his offices and studios several times. The artist, who designed the Olympic Bird’s Nest Stadium, had been keeping a running tally of dissident detentions on a Twitter feed that had 70,000 followers. I guess the politicos didn’t like that many people knowing what they’re up to. The AP has the story, though The Guardian has a more detailed one. Incidentally, the Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of the press and freedom of expression. It’s just applied very selectively.

Chinese government tears down dissident artist’s studio

JISHOU, HUNAN — Beijing artist Ai WeiWei is a vocal critic of China’s Communist Party. While party officials have not arrested him (yet), they seem to take special glee in making his life miserable. On Tuesday, government officials authorized the demolition of Ai’s newly built artists’ studio in a village outside Shanghai. The link above will take you the complete article at The New York Times.

Chinese netizens evade censorship about Nobel winner Liu XiaoBo

JISHOU, HUNAN — Chinese dissident Liu XiaoBo received the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Friday, in absentia since he is still serving an 11-year prison sentence in China. The Chinese government was far from happy with the international attention paid Liu, who co-authored Charter ’08, a manifesto for democratic reforms in the Middle Kingdom. Foreign TV news coverage was blacked out, major news sites like the BBC and CNN were blocked, and any mentions of the award on domestic sites were rapidly deleted by the government’s army of censors. But netizens here are used to government censorship, and they have developed their own sly ways of getting their points across without being overt. One example is the “grass mud horse,” a mythical llama-like creature whose name in Chinese sounds much like telling someone to have sex with his mother. (Cuss words are usually censored in the media here. Well, the Chinese ones, anyway.) Danwei.org reports that admirers of Liu have been posting tributes on Twitter to other people surnamed Liu. The tributes have a double meaning — praise of Liu XiaoBo and also the other figure sharing his family name. here are some examples. Their names are linked to Wikipedia articles ...

Nobel ceremony is Friday – guess who won’t be there 1

[Updated November 7.] JISHOU, HUNAN — The recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, Liu XiaoBo of China, is still in prison serving out an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion.” His wife is confined — unwillingly — to her Beijing home. Liu’s brothers are under close observation. A noted Chinese artist, Ai WeiWei, has been prevented from leaving China. Get the picture? Liu’s “crime,” according to Beijing, is his involvement in writing Charter ’08. The document, signed by thousands of Chinese, calls for a multi-party political system and guarantees of human rights already included in the Chinese constitution. That the Nobel committee selected Liu for the Peace Prize has China’s party leaders very pissed off, since it calls attention to his status as a political prisoner. Despite calls from international leaders to release him, Beijing continues to keep him in prison, and his family members in China. It means that prize itself will not be handed out to anyone. From the BBC: It also appears likely that the prize itself will not be handed out during the ceremony because no-one from Liu Xiaobo’s family has said they can attend, the Nobel committee secretary says. The $1.4m (£900,000) award can be ...

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