Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Love The Future: Ai Weiwei

"I really don't dare believe that in this society, even love for the future can disappear" - anonymous Internet post
Since Ai Weiwei was detained on April 3rd, his name has been banned, deleted, erased, wacked, clubbed - whatever - by the Internet police in a futile attempt to prevent people from typing what everyone already knows. As a result, netizens have adapted and are using different variants of his name. Ai Weiwei - 艾未未 - can be read/pronounced as "ai weilai" or "love the future" and several people have been using it. It's a beautiful turn of phrase that suggests Ai is the future of China, regardless of what the government might wish.

Above is a screenshot of the statement that appeared briefly on the state news agency, Xinhua, before it was deleted today. He's being investigated for "suspected economic crimes," or corruption. On April 6th, an article in the state-run Global Times threatened that Ai "will pay a price" without specifying for what exactly. It reads like a ransom note from a gang of desperate thugs.

Ai with one of his "crimes" - a name list of the more than 5,000 children who perished in the May 12, 2008 Sichuan Earthquake
After the Sichuan Earthquake, Ai helped launch a "Citizens' Investigation" that uncovered evidence of a corruption scandal involving shoddy construction of what became known as "tofu" schools. In August 2009, while trying to testify for his friend, Tan Zuoren, he was attacked by police in his Chengdu hotel room in the middle of the night. A month later in Munich, he underwent emergency brain surgery to stop internal bleeding. From October 2009 to January 2010, his Munich exhibition, "So Sorry," included an installation made up of 9000 children's backpacks spelling out, "She lived happily for seven years in this world," a quote from a mother whose child died in the earthquake. Ai has also tweeted the names of the victims on their birthdays, using the hashtag #512birthday.

The government is saying Ai's disappearance has "nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression." If that's so, then the deaths of the children had nothing to do with an earthquake and everything to do with government corruption.