"The detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei is inconsistent with the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Chinese citizens, including China’s commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," stated Mark Toner, Acting Deputy Spokesman for the U.S. Department of State. "[W]e urge the Chinese Government to release him immediately."
Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most famous living artists, with major exhibitions running concurrently in Asia, America, and Europe. Ai helped design Beijing's main Olympic stadium, known as the "Bird's Nest".
Ai's recent run-in with authorities began when he supported activist Tan Zuoren, who was compiling a list of students killed in the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Ai published the collected names and articles documenting the investigation into the construction of schools that collapsed during the earthquake on his blog, which was shut down in May 2009.
In August 2009, Ai Weiwei was reportedly beaten in Chengdu by the security services for trying to attend Tan’s trial. In November 2010, Ai's newly built art studio in Shanghai, commissioned by the local government, was demolished. Authorities prevented Ai from traveling to Shanghai prior to the demolition.
Ai never stopped documenting his run-ins with the Chinese authorities. Fears for his safety are growing amid international condemnation of his apparent extralegal detention on Sunday morning, April 3rd, when Ai was at the Beijing Capital International Airport awaiting departure for Hong Kong.
Ai Weiwei's detention is the latest in a series of arrests and detentions, beginning in mid-February. International NGOs have documented the cases of dozens of activists and rights defenders who have been detained, arrested, or harassed.
"We . . . continue to be deeply concerned," Acting Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said, "by the trend of forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, arrests, and convictions of rights activists for exercising their internationally recognized human rights, including freedom of expression and movement."