As Art World Rallies, Chinese Officials Summon Ai Weiwei’s Wife

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Al Weiwei

Reuters/Bobby Yip

Lu Qing was asked to take documents with her, but ironically, she couldn’t- she’d had them confiscated by police.

Her husband, Ai Weiwei, has long been a prominent figure in the art world.  He designed the Olympic stadium in Beijing, along with Herzog and De Meuron, and his his sunflower seeds exhibition is currently displayed at Tate Modern, in London.

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But it seems his fame has not played at his advantage in denouncing the regime’s lack of freedom, and he’s now under investigation for alleged economic crimes. The general sentiment is that the allegations are a cover for detaining him for his political campaigning. “China in many ways is just like the Middle Ages,” Ai Weiwei told officials at Beijing airport, after surveillance cameras were installed at his gate entrance, his phone was tapped and his mircroblog censored.

The Guggenheim museum in New York started a campaign that has gained over 16,000 signatures. Several institutions have signed the petition including the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. The Chinese government is appalled by international public support, and foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei is “baffled.” He said he couldn’t understand why some countries would “treat a crime suspect as a hero.”

But EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton says she is “deeply concerned” about the human rights situation in China and is alarmed at the arrest of Al Weiwei. “Arbitrary arrests must cease,” she said. “I urge China to release all of those who have been detained for exercising their universally recognized right to freedom of expression.”

(More on The China Paradox)