Ai Weiwei, one of China's most prominent avant-garde artists and human rights activists, was detained at the Beijing airport on April 3 on his way to Hong Kong, sparking international debate on human rights. His arrest has been deemed part of the recent Chinese government crackdown on political dissidents and government critics. He has not been heard from since his arrest. The Chinese government maintains that Ai is being detained for “economic crimes” that have “nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression”.
Related article: China silent on Ai location, condemns foreign support [AFP, 12 Apr 2011]
News footage: Revered Chinese artist branded criminal [CNN, 13 Apr 2011]
Ai’s arrest has sparked an outcry in the West. The United States, Australia, Britain, France and Germany have joined Amnesty International and other rights groups in calling for his release.
China’s detention of Ai has been the subject of considerable political and media scrutiny, especially in the light of the US State Department’s annual report, released earlier this month, of rights conditions worldwide in 2010. In her introductory comment, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted a “negative human rights trend” in China. She also said that Ai’s arrest was “contrary to the rule of law”.
Related article: US human rights report raps China, Iran, Belarus [Voice of America, 8 Apr 2011]
Background: 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [US Dept of State, 8 Apr 2011]
China has not taken the criticism of its human rights record lightly. On 11 April, China released its own report of the US human rights record. The report focuses on economic and social issues like poverty, crime and racism, while stressing that the United States is not justified in posing as a judge of global human rights. China has urged the US to stop interfering in its internal affairs under the pretext of human rights issues.
Related article: China accuses US of human rights double standards [The Guardian, 11 Apr 2011]
Background: full text of China’s report, ‘Human Rights Record of United States in 2010’[China Daily, 11 Apr 2011]