Ai Weiwei Held in Sichuan

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Artist Ai Weiwei, who has led a campaign to document student deaths from last year’s Sichuan earthquake, was detained with several other activists last night in Chengdu. The group was there to attend the trial of Tan Zuoren, another activist who has investigated the quake’s aftermath and is charged with subversion. According to the Associated Press:

Ai said the court had refused to allow him to testify at Tan’s trial so he decided to try to go to the court to show support for Tan, but four police officers carrying guns and batons barged into his hotel room at 3 a.m. Wednesday to take him away.

One of them struck him on his right cheek when he questioned them, he said, while another supporter was also roughed up.

“They said, ‘If we need, we can beat you to death’,” Ai said in a phone interview from the hotel that police took him and the other supporters to, not far from the court. About 20 officers guarded them, but did not give a reason for their detention, Ai said.

Chinese blogger Wen Yunchao has posted a photo apparently snapped by Ai in an elevator as he was taken away by officers this morning. It’s impressively composed, given the circumstances.