Nudist Netizens Show Support for Ai Weiwei in Wake of Pornography Investigation

Since meeting last week’s deadline for a down payment in order to challenge his disputed $2.4 million tax bill, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei told AFP he now faces a government inquiry into potential pornography charges after his videographer Zhao Zhao was detained for questioning on Thursday:

“Yesterday they took my assistant to the police station. They (police) clearly told him this is an investigation, now, they are doing on me, on pornography,” Ai told AFP by telephone.

The accusations apparently centre on racy photographs posted on the Internet showing Ai with women, he said.

“When they detained me, they said ‘this is pornography’, but I just laughed, I said, ‘do you know what is pornography’?” he said. “Nudity is not pornography.”

The investigation revives accusations made against Ai when he was detained in April, according to the Associated Press, and continues an ongoing campaign to punish him for his criticism of China’s authoritarian government:

Ai questioned whether the police understood art and culture. “If they see nudity as pornography, then China is still in the Qing dynasty,” he said.

The photograph features the hefty, bearded artist and four women sitting on traditional Chinese wooden chairs on a concrete floor against a bare, white wall.

Zhao said police told him they might seek criminal penalties against him for the photograph if it had spread widely.

“They said, ‘This photograph is an obscene photograph.’ I said, ‘I didn’t know that, what’s obscene about it?’ They said, ‘It’s just obscene.’ They’ve already decided that,” Zhao said. No charges have been pressed yet, he added.

Alison Klayman, director of the forthcoming documentary ‘Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry‘, posted the photos behind the charges on Facebook under the title “Nudity isn’t pornography”. (Both, however, are against the site’s terms and conditions, so Facebook logos were later added to the pictures at strategic locations.)

In light of the pornography probe, Reuters highlights an unlikely display of mass nudity as the latest form of online solidarity for Ai Weiwei:

By Monday afternoon, seventy people had posted nude photos of themselves on a website called “Ai Wei Fans’ Nudity — Listen, Chinese Government: Nudity is not Pornography” — a rare form of protest in a country where public nudity is still taboo.

They uploaded the photos after Beijing police questioned Ai’s videographer on Thursday for allegedly spreading pornography online by taking nude photographs of Ai and four women.

Supporters of Ai, whose 81-day secret detention earlier this year sparked an international outcry, say that the questioning over the nude photographs is China’s latest effort to intimidate its most famous social critic.