Ai Wei Wei willing to go to jail

Ai Wei Wei willing to go to jail

Controversial Chinese artist speaks to Time Out Hong Kong about the Jasmine Revolution, Liu Xiaobo and doing time
ai wei wei
Ai Wei Wei.

Chinese dissident artist Ai Wei Wei spoke to Time Out Hong Kong in an exclusive interview from his home. The transcipt is like a guide to censorship-prone subjects in China, touching on everthing from the Jasmine Revolution in China to Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize to the demolition of Ai's studio while he was under house arrest. The issue is on stands now.

Excerpts from the interview kindly provided by Time Out:

Time Out: Is the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ a genuine online movement?

Ai Wei Wei: Yes, because China censors the entire internet and really crashes down on those who have opinions of why this society should be changed. In the past two weeks, over 100 people have been arrested. Some are long-time writers, scholars, lawyers; some are just one-time students saying ‘let’s meet on a certain corner, a certain street.’ It’s very strong. Many universities will not allow students to come out, mainly because teachers have received a certain note ordering them to do their duty, otherwise they will be in trouble, or their school will be in trouble. So the country is very tight right now. The true result is that China is controlling universities more than ever before over these past 18 days. The government cannot afford to lose this battle. But another factor is that the people who have strong beliefs for change have become ever more necessary.

TOHK: You’re a world-famous artist, and you’re very successful, but you run the risk of going to jail at any moment. Are you afraid of jail?

Ai: I am afraid of jail, but my father was a poet [Ai Qing, 1910-1996]. I don’t admire him much as a poet, but I do admire him when in his early 20s he was sentenced to six years, and then later exiled for 20 years in really the worst situation, cleaning the public toilets; and yet he survived. So if I think about my father I think, ‘this was really a strong soul, a poet, who accepted a kind of jail, a human condition.’ It’s a statement, you know? So this is how I try to make myself understand what would happen in jail. But nobody really knows what happens in the real jail.

TOHK: Do you know what is happening with Liu Xiaobo? What is his condition like in jail?

Ai: [Visibly angered] Even his wife cannot see him! You don’t sentence the one person, you sentence the whole family! He has totally disappeared. All the lawyers cannot see him. Nobody can see him. I mean, come on! If you are so right, if you think justice has been served then you have to do it correctly; you cannot do it secretly. This is not the time to do that. Sentence him, yes. In front of the people in open court, fine. But not secretly.

TOHK: By locking him up they have made him 10 times more powerful.

Ai: It is true. And by not letting people attend this kind of ceremony [The Nobel Peace Prize Award 2010] they had 400 or 500 people on the list not to let them out of the country. I was one of them. I was surprised.