It’s been a long time coming, but the irrepressible artist and campaigner for truth about the collapse of schools in the Sichuan earthquake Ai Weiwei (see our story about his project and transcript of our interview here) finally received a visit from National Security agents, who wanted him to come in for a “chat” (often the euphemism is a “cup of tea”). They wouldn’t identify themselves, as is their usual practice. But Ai is a different animal from the usual human rights lawyer or dissident. He has built his campaign on his public prominence and his outsize personality and it’s no surprise that not only did he refuse to have the “chat”, he called the police emergency line and filed a report against the agents. There are translations of his report of what happened next (he blogged about it and it’s vintage Ai; it includes him attempting to kick down a door in a police station) and comments by others all over the internet including an excellent post on danwei.org, here. So far, the score seems to be:
Ai 1-Huge State Security Machine 0
although if his blogs stay shut hat could tie things up. Further down the road it’s hard to see the Ai holding his own but you never know. People like him can be game changers.