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Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has been detained in Beijing for nearly a month under suspicion of having committed unspecified "economic crimes," although it is widely believed that he is being held for his outspoken political views. The international art community has turned to their own guerilla methods to express their mounting outrage: street art. Melinda Liu reports for The Daily Beast that a “Free Ai Weiwei” street art campaign has sprung up in Hong Kong,

In recent days the glass doors of several upscale art galleries in Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road area displayed photos of Ai with the single word “Missing” in bold black letters. Graffiti artists have also taken up the cause. A hand-painted caricature of the detained artist with the caption “Free AWW” appeared on Shing Wong street and elsewhere. Stenciled likenesses of Ai with the words “Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei” appeared on pedestrian overpasses in heavily trafficked areas as well.

Hong Kong authorities said they would investigate the stencilings, which could lead to charges of criminal damage that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. One student artist who dared not have her name published told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post: “It will be worth it if just one person sees what I've done and asks themselves: `Why should Ai Weiwei be silenced?'"

Graffiti is displayed on a wall in Hong Kong.

A man sits in 'jail' as a group of human rights advocates hold a protest at a busy shopping area.

Artists wearing 'V for Vendetta' masks protest during a march.

An activist holds a doll, a toy handcuff and a drawing of Ai Weiwei in front of police officer.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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