International outcry mounts for Ai Weiwei's release

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's whereabouts are still unknown after Chinese police detained him as he was about to board a flight to Hong Kong several days ago. Now artists and international governments are calling for his release, even though Chinese authorities have not yet acknowledged they have him in custody. The artist, known for criticism of corruption in Chinese government and law enforcement, has gained international notoriety for his art as well as his vocal dissent, often transmitted via Twitter. A Twitter petition, fittingly, has been started calling for his release, as governments and artists have decried the detention:

Markus Ederer, the European Union's ambassador in China:
"[We are] concerned by the increasing use of arbitrary detention against human rights defenders, lawyers and activists in China. We call on the Chinese authorities to refrain from using arbitrary detention under any circumstances."

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner:

"We are deeply concerned by the trend of forced disappearances, extra-legal detentions, arrests and convictions of rights activists for exercising their internationally recognized human rights. The detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei is inconsistent with the fundamental freedom and human rights of all Chinese citizens. We urge the Chinese government to release him immediately."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague:
“I am very concerned by reports that Ai Weiwei has been detained by the Chinese authorities. I call on the Chinese government to urgently clarify Ai’s situation and wellbeing, and hope he will be released immediately. The UK remains committed to engagement with China on human rights. I am absolutely clear that the development of independent civil society and application of human rights under the rule of law are essential prerequisites for China’s long-term prosperity and stability.”
German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle:
“I appeal to the Chinese government to urgently provide clarification, and I expect Ai Weiwei to be released immediately.”
Gary Hilty, director of Lisson Gallery in London, which represents Ai there:
We are extremely alarmed by the detention of Ai Weiwei and his colleagues and are greatly concerned for his safety. Ai Weiwei is one of the leading cultural figures of his generation and consistently displays great courage in placing himself at risk to affect social change through his art. He serves as an example for legitimate social criticism and free expression both in China and internationally. Lisson Gallery has a long history of working with political artists and we strongly condemn any form of artistic suppression. We continue to support Ai Weiwei and are fully committed to staging his first solo exhibition at the gallery, opening 13 May 2011.
Nato Thompson, Creative Time chief curator, on Facebook:
People of the world have the right to speak truth to power. Free Ai Wei Wei!
Daina Augaitis, chief curator of the Vancouver Art Gallery, urging Ottawa to call for Ai's release:
"It's terrible. We need to speak out about it. We need to demand his release -as the French and German governments have already done."
The Slought Foundation in Philadelphia:
Slought Foundation urges the Chinese government to respect Ai Weiwei's health and to insure his safety, and to release him immediately. His detainment and disappearance is a great tragedy and devastating blow to the international community. Ai Weiwei is an artist that feels a great love and compassion for China and her people, and we urge the Chinese government to recognize this fact and allow him and his family the freedom if not to speak freely, then to at least leave.

We strongly encourage you to raise your voice and to contact your elected representatives, government contacts, and civic institutions, to advocate for official statements requesting updates on his health and location, and for positions to be issued on his behalf as well as all of those that have been detained in recent weeks.

We also encourage the cultural institutions, universities, and governments in our extended community to join us in taking a principled, public, and collective stand in support of his release, and to keep pressing for ongoing media coverage of his detention in the days ahead.
Update 04.08.11: Creative Time:
We are alarmed by the detention of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, and by any action that threatens the right of the artist to speak and work freely. Creative Time firmly believes that artists and citizens alike are entitled to free expression in China and around the world. We rely on artists to envision and shape a more just and equitable global community. Ai Weiwei is an internationally regarded figure whose work encourages us, as a society, to sympathetically address the plight of the disadvantaged and oppressed. His incarceration is shameful and we are greatly concerned for his safety. We call for his immediate release by Chinese authorities.


Andrew Graeme Gould said...

Stand up for Ai Weiwei. It's the least we can do...

Ben Gage said...

When artists leave the safety of aesthetics, ideas can be powerful weapons....