Artist Ai Weiwei Supporters „Celebrate“ Shanghai Studio Demolition
Recently Artist Ai Weiwei’s newly-built art studio in Shanghai became the target for demolition by local authorities. And on Sunday, Ai found himself under house arrest at his home in Beijing.
Ai says authorities detained him to retaliate against his planned dinner party at his new studio. He had invited his Twitter friends from all over China to attend the party on Sunday to mark the demolition, and had been planning to leave Beijing for Shanghai on Friday. More than 1000 people were expected to attend, and Ai says that made the authorities feel “nervous”.
Ai and his supporters had been planning to eat a meal of 10,000 river crabs, whose name in Chinese “he xie” sounds similar to the word for “harmony”—a buzz word used by the Chinese regime. Under their policy of creating a so-called “Harmonious Society”, the Chinese authorities have continued to demolish homes, censor the press and persecute thousands.
Although Ai could not attend, almost 400 of his supporters gathered in his studio on Sunday to promote his message.
Carrying banners of Ai with his rock musician friend Zuoxiao Zuzhou, many chanted slogans of support. [18. CROWD POSING WITH RIVER CRABS AND CHANTING IN MANDARIN „IN A HARMONIOUS SOCIETY, WE EAT RIVER CRABS.“]
[Chen Yizhu, 19-Year-Old Supporter]:
„Of course, it is a great regret that Ai Weiwei did not come. After all, one of the reasons I came here was to see Ai. But whether he is here or not, the objective of this event to eat these river crabs and its intended meaning is still here. So even though it is not perfect, this cannot be counted as a failure.”
45-year-old Nanjing resident Lai Hong, says Ai’s house arrest was unwarranted.
[Lai Hong, Supporter]:
„Of course I find this unreasonable and incomprehensible. He [Ai Weiwei] is just coming here to have a meal and not do anything else. It’s not like we are going to steal or rob anyone. This is just what we call a form of performance art or a form of expression. One should not overreact to this event. I feel they (the authorities) have overreacted and I don’t like it at all. So even after I heard of this news, I still wanted to come here.“
Authorities claim they are demolishing the US $1.2-million studio because it violates proper building standards. Ai maintains that the local mayor had personally encouraged him to build it 2 years ago.
[Ai Weiwei, Chinese Artist]:
„I believe there are other reasons. It’s like this, one worker came to me and said ‚Mr. Ai, you should understand this situation. Your political participation is too strong, and so this is coming entirely from you.‘ But this situation, I believe is really extreme. First you invite me to begin construction, and then wait until I have finished construction, and then give me a violation notice, but never explain to me clearly why the building must be demolished immediately. Of course I believe that you can’t really reason with the government, there is really no room for discussion.”
Apart from his artwork, Ai is also known for criticizing the Chinese regime. He has never been officially arrested, but has had the odd brush with Chinese authorities. Ai says authorities were planning to release him from house arrest at midnight on Sunday night.