Ai Weiwei Gets Back to Criticizing China in NewsBeast Essay

The artist takes aim at the government that detained him

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After he was released from prison in late June, dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei didn't have much to say about his ordeal or the political and social systems that led to it. In mid-August, he called his imprisonment "a kind of mental torture" in a New York Times interview, but stopped short of outward or in-depth criticism of the Chinese state. But on Monday, a piece he wrote for NewsBeast took aim at the culture of corruption, secrecy, and authoritarianism that he has previously targeted as an acclaimed artist.

My ordeal made me understand that on this fabric, there are many hidden spots where they put people without identity. With no name, just a number. They don’t care where you go, what crime you committed. They see you or they don’t see you, it doesn’t make the slightest difference. There are thousands of spots like that. Only your family is crying out that you’re missing. But you can’t get answers from the street communities or officials, or even at the highest levels, the court or the police or the head of the nation. My wife has been writing these kinds of petitions every day, making phone calls to the police station every day. Where is my husband? Just tell me where my husband is. There is no paper, no information.

While China's official reason for detaining Ai was failure to pay taxes, it's widely believed he was arrested for speaking out against the government. His latest essay shows he hasn't decided to stop that practice after all.

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