Ai charged with “economic crimes,” Wu Yuren released

Wu Yuren has been released, after nearly one year in prison, and roughly at the moment that Ai was incarcerated.  Since then, Ai has been formally charged with “economic crimes” and the establishment art media in the United States has been circulating a petition (with, at last check, over 7,000 signatories) for his release. Petition content:

On April 3, internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained at the Beijing airport while en route to Hong Kong, and his papers and computers were seized from his studio compound.

We members of the international arts community express our concern for Ai’s freedom and disappointment in China’s reluctance to live up to its promise to nurture creativity and independent thought, the keys to “soft power” and cultural influence.

Our institutions have some of the largest online museum communities in the world. We have launched this online petition to our collective millions of Facebook fans and Twitter followers.  By using Ai Weiwei’s favored medium of “social sculpture,” we hope to hasten the release of our visionary friend.

Richard Armstrong, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation and Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator, Asian Art
Michael Govan, Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Kaywin Feldman, President, Association of Art Museum Directors and Director and President, Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Glenn Lowry, Director, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Yongwoo Lee, President, The Gwangju Biennale Foundation
Vishakha Desai, President and Melissa Chiu, Vice President of Global Arts, Asia Society
Sir Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate and Chris Dercon, Director, Tate Modern




Richard Armstrong  古根汉姆美术馆 馆长
Alexandra Munroe   古根汉姆美术馆 资深策展人
Michael Govan 洛杉矶美术馆 馆长
Kaywin Feldman 美国博物馆协会暨明尼阿波利斯美术馆 总裁
Glenn Lowry 纽约当代美术馆 馆长
Yongwoo Lee 光州双年展基金会 总裁
Vishakha Desai 亚洲协会  总裁
Melissa Chiu 亚洲协会 全球艺术项目 副总裁
Sir Nicholas Serota 泰德美术馆  馆长

The effect of such a petition, particularly if it is signed by a large number of individuals, will be to make Ai the figurehead, one man facing off with the central government, the type of narrative which excites (Western) global media.  Meanwhile, there are suggestions that such excitement may well be counter-productive.  Lucas Klein, of the City University of Hong Kong, makes some important observations (on MCLC listserve) with regard to Ai’s arrest:

Actually, I think China does have oil. But perhaps not enough of it to

More to the point (that is, would sanctions actually seed change?), given
that Western corporations would agree to the heightened labor costs and
closed market that would result in pulling out from China (which they
wouldn’t, obviously), the PRC government has been very good at spinning any
criticism of its policies as Western imperialist attacks on an essential
Chineseness. No doubt some in the West are motivated by a desire to keep
China down and white people up, but usually they’re not the ones advocating
for more personal and social freedoms or less inequality, for anyone. At any
rate, we seem to be at a historical impasse where “engagement” gives the
current Chinese government legitimacy, but sanctions would give it
legitimacy, too.

However, I heard that Ai Weiwei had complained about foreign reporters
always looking to him as a symbol of resistance or criticism. The more they
focused on him, he seemed to be saying, the more they enabled the government
to see opposition to the government as an individual, rather than group,
issue–and now he pays the price for it (an “economic crime” of its own, I
suppose). Assuming he did say such a thing, I think he’s got to be right:
the US press, at least, seems to have a vested interest in individualism
(consider “Tank Man,” and consider that the west has not learned the lesson
that, no matter how brave or noble, an individual alone cannot stop an
army), but in making anyone an individual hero, they also reduce the
possibilities for collective action.


Lucas has got a point.


2 thoughts on “Ai charged with “economic crimes,” Wu Yuren released

  1. paulmanfredi says:

    You are absolutely correct. A bit of laziness on my part.
    Though the whole terminology, on a “formal” level, is worth exploring a bit. In that regard, I don’t even believe “arrest” is a terribly good word. In fact, it is the ambiguity in the process that makes it most problematic. Once clearly “arrested,” and formally charged, the machinery of Chinese justice is in effect. Prior to that, one is simply, what?, 隔离了,removed?

  2. b says:

    not formally charged yet I would say! are u relying on that xinhua–later-pulled-down announcement? that’s not a formal charge I think.

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