Surgery for Ai Weiwei in Germany

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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei underwent cranial surgery this week in Munich to treat lingering pain he’s suffered since being punched by a Chengdu police officer last month. (He’s posted pre- and post-surgery photos on his Twitter page.) Ai, who organized a campaign to tally student deaths in last year’s Sichuan earthquake, was detained with other activists while in Chengdu to speak at the trial of Tan Zuoren. Tan, an editor and environmentalist who had recorded the deaths of students in collapsed schools, is charged with “inciting subversion of state power.”

I spoke with Ai briefly this evening by phone and he said he was recovering well and “everything is fine.” He decided to get a checkup after flying to Germany last week ahead of an opening of his work later this month. After the examination revealed internal bleeding, the doctors suggest he undergo surgery. Two insertions were made on the right side of his head, and 30 mL of fluid was removed, according to his Twitter page. Ai said he considered himself lucky because as a successful artist he had the means to seek treatment for his condition. “Millions of people have the same treatment from the police,” he says. Those who can’t afford expensive surgery “will have pain the rest of their life.”