China’s detention of the artist is a cynical repudiation of its own laws, writes Lionel M. Jensen for Asia Sentinel.
It only took a little over four days after Ai Weiwei’s sudden apprehension by China’s Public Security Bureau at the Beijing Airport, for the government to initiate, as is its tireless and terrifying custom, the public process of building a “case” against the disappeared by alluding to the subject’s “crimes.”
Owing to comments made last week in three of the Chinese Communist Party’s growing number of online and print “news” sources, China and the world now know that Ai’s actions were, according to Renmin Ribao (“People’s Daily”) and the Global Times, legally “ambiguous” and too near “the red line of Chinese law.” The Global Times also reported that the departure papers for his flight to Hong Kong were “incomplete,” thus he could not board the plane.
Under China’s “stability maintenance” (weiwen) program, the customary circumstances of disappearance, with which many are familiar following the treatment of Liu Xiabo in 2009, who vanished for many months without acknowledgment as allusion, innuendo, and vague, groundless assertion made the case for the subsequent necessity of his “trial” and imprisonment, these are serious charges. Last Thursday morning the character assassination phase became more ominous, when Xinhua, the official news agency, reported that Ai was being “investigated for suspected economic crimes in accord with the law.”
Yet, the ambiguous language of the official report conveyed that the state was having difficulty obtaining actual evidence to make such a “case.” This may have been because the forty police officers who investigated Ai’s studio early last week. taking a great many things including money, vigorously interrogated his assistants, only to discover that none of them knew anything of his financial matters.