Last Wednesday when Ai was released after serving 81 days in detention, the first impulse was to breath a sigh of relief and then rejoice. But what has become clear is that Ai, along with many others, is still firmly under the boot of the Communist thugocracy. As Gao Wenqian, a former Communist Party official who fled to the U.S. after the Tiananmen Square massacre says, “You can say that Ai Weiwei was transferred from a small prison to the prison outside.”
Watching Ai return silently to his Bejing home last week was a chilling scene. The once gregarious artist had been muzzled - he looked worn and haggard and was unable to answer even the simplest questions about his detention. That is one among a long list of conditions pertaining to his "release." He was never formally charged with anything, yet the state-run Xinhua news agency reported that he confessed to his "crimes." The government has now ordered him to pay 12 million yuan ($1.85 million) in back taxes and fines.
When the Arab Spring started gathering momentum the Chinese authorities freaked out and began a crackdown on civil society not seen since the wake of the Tiananmen massacre in 1989. As Newsweek reports:
With a powerful “security faction” now ascendant in the Communist Party, at least 500 people have been detained in the past four months alone, observers estimate. Chinese officials have also severely curtailed press freedom, apparently disrupted Internet and mobile-phone service, and gone after human-rights lawyers in a campaign of torture and disappearances. An Amnesty International report states that, consequently, only “a few hundred out of a total of 204,000 lawyers risk taking up human-rights cases.This is the China that outsiders don't see. It's a terrifying place to be if you believe in basic freedoms, a place where the rule of law and justice are arbitrary constructs, the fake illusions of a tyrannous regime. Fake is only as good as those who settle for less. The Chinese know they deserve better, which is why the current leadership fears its own people.