Artist Ai Weiwei Warns of Chinese and American Authoritarianism

Chinese police picked Ai Weiwei up at Beijing’s airport the morning of April 3rd 2011. Later, Ai Weiwei was seen in a van, with security personnel surrounding him. He was wearing a dark hood. He was driven to a secret facility for interrogation and surveillance. Ai thought of his son and wondered when he’d see him again.

Ai stated, “I had hoped I would be there for 10 or 13 more years.” There are reasons. “And then I realized that if I had a chance to write it down. [my memories]So I can give them to my son.”

The book was published. 1000 Years of Joys & SorrowsThis book tells the story about his detention for 81 days, his struggle with the Chinese Communist Party and the fate of his father Ai Qing who was punished severely during China’s Cultural Revolution.

Ai explained that Ai was harshly punished and had to be accompanied by about half a billion intellectuals. “They relocated us from the capital to the most remote province….That experience gave me an early and very intimate relation to politics.”

Ai’s view on freedom, individuality and human rights was shaped by his experiences growing up as an exile. These views put Ai at odds with Beijing. However, Ai explains in his book that China isn’t the only one who restricts speech.

“Ideological cleansing,” he writes, “exists not only under totalitarian regimes—it is also present, in a different form, in liberal Western democracies. Individual thought and expression have been too frequently curtailed and replaced with empty slogans by politically correct extremism. There are many examples of people today who say and do things they don’t believe in just to fit in with the public narrative.

Meredith Bragg created this article

Music: Alon Peretz’s “Jericho at Dusk”, via Artlist. Yotam Agam’s “Om Karam,” via Artist.

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