Britain and Germany urge China to free Ai Weiwei

LONDON Tue Apr 5, 2011 3:22am IST

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei throws porcelain sunflower seeds into the air as he poses with his installation ''Sunflower Seeds'', in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern gallery, in London in this October 11, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/Files

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei throws porcelain sunflower seeds into the air as he poses with his installation ''Sunflower Seeds'', in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern gallery, in London in this October 11, 2010 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth/Files

Related Topics

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain and Germany called on Monday for the release of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, a prominent critic of the ruling Communist Party who was detained by police as he was about to board a plane to Hong Kong.

"I call on the Chinese government to urgently clarify Ai's situation and wellbeing, and hope he will be released immediately," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

Hague added that human rights applied under the rule of law were "essential prerequisites" to China's long-term prosperity and stability.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he had learned of Ai's detention "with great concern" and urged China to free him at once and provide an explanation of the incident.

The Tate Modern gallery in London, where Ai's huge installation "Sunflower Seeds" made up of 100 million replica porcelain seeds is on display in the cavernous Turbine Hall, also said it was concerned about his disappearance.

"We are dismayed by developments that again threaten Weiwei's right to speak freely as an artist and hope that he will be released immediately," a spokesman said.

The 53-year-old artist's detention adds to a lengthening list of dissidents held in a security crackdown by a government determined to snuff out any hint of challenges to its power as it approaches a leadership transition in late 2012.

Ai, a favorite among art collectors who often pay sizeable sums for his works at auction, has the highest international profile of scores of critics detained in the past two months.

Police searched his studio on the northern outskirts of Beijing, seizing computers, his Beijing lawyer Pu Zhiqiang said.

"They had a search order, but they didn't say what crime he had been accused of," he said.

The artist could not be contacted Monday, more than 24 hours after officials stopped him from boarding a plane to Hong Kong.

An assistant at his studio, who asked not to be named, said she was one of eight people questioned by police Sunday, with the artist's wife and driver later also detained.

Everyone apart from Ai was subsequently released, and his studio was open again.

Ai's career spans protests for artistic freedom in 1979, provocative works in the 1990s, and a hand in designing the Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

His public comments, activities and art are some of the loudest and most flagrantly defiant forms of speech in China, where government controls on the Internet and traditional media constrain civil society.

Ai has never been formally arrested, despite his many brushes with the law.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; editing by Andrew Dobbie and Kevin Liffey)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Celeb Buzz

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Brother's Role

Brother's Role

Paul Walker's brothers to fill in for late actor in 'Fast 7'.  Full Article 

Sir Alex's Collection

Sir Alex's Collection

Alex Ferguson's wines expected to score with buyers - Christie's.  Full Article 

Waning Interest

Waning Interest

'Mad Men' premiere draws 2.3 million, lowest season debut since 2008.  Full Article 

Health Resort

Health Resort

Time slips quietly by for Austrian nuns' resort.  Full Article 

New Band

New Band

The Vamps launch album and ride London Underground.  Video 

MTV Movie Awards

MTV Movie Awards

Highlights from the 2014 MTV Movie Awards.  Slideshow 

Party At Coachella

Party At Coachella

Highlights from the Coachella Music Festival.  Slideshow 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage