Wednesday, 22 July 2015

600 Days Later

Ai Weiwei's selfie with his passport finally in his hand
I follow Ai Weiwei on Instagram and was surprised to see a selfie of him with his passport.

He finally got it!

He wrote: "今天, 我拿到了护照。"

"Today, I received my passport."

Ai has been waiting 600 days for this day to come, when he was detained at Beijing International Airport trying to fly to Hong Kong in 2011.

After that he was taken away and detained for 81 days and prosecuted for tax evasion, a charge that he was convicted of and his studio was fined 2.4 million yuan in penalties and back taxes.

Some may remember that many ordinary people came by his home and folded bank notes into paper planes to fly into his property to help contribute to the fine.

He also later exhibited dioramas, scenes that showed him being detained, and his bare living quarters, how guards would stand close to him while he showered and went to the washroom.

Ai believes the trial for tax evasion was really to punish him for trying to investigate how many children died in the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008. It seems that a disproportionate number of young people were killed because of shoddy construction of schools there.

Today the 57-year-old explained that when the authorities took his passport away, they gave him no indication of when he would get it.

"I only can say why not? They have promised for the past four years to give it back. Now they finally give it to me. They always say it's in the process but I just need to be patient," he told The New York Times.

Being unable to travel severely restricted his ability to organize exhibitions abroad, but his army of staff have been able to help facilitate this. He was not allowed to show his work in China either, up until last month when he had his first solo exhibition in Beijing, a sign that things were looking up.

Ai plans to go to Berlin soon to see his six-year-old son, Ai Lao, who has been living there for the past year with his mother. The artist also plans to get a medical check-up, to follow up on the 2009 emergency brain surgery he had there after he was beaten in the head by the police in Chengdu.

Things are slowly getting back to normal for Ai, which must be a relief for him, but knowing his rebellious character, he will probably continue to criticize the government through his art, though perhaps in a more subtle way. We shall see.


  1. What do you reckon: Is this a sweetener by the Chinese government to "balance" their arrests of all those human rights lawyers?

    1. Hi YTSL -- I don't think so... as he himself says, they always promised to give it back to him, just a matter of when. He's been a pretty good boy overall though I have to admit I don't know what he's saying on Twitter. He really wants to see his son...

  2. I never realized that he was without his passport, as his exhibits in the US and Canada have continued, albeit without the overt political commentary that he used to do. I think he has really towed the line. I really admire yet wonder why he hasn't just immigrated as so many others have.