Ai Weiwei: “I Am Fighting Someone I Will Never Know”

In one of a number of recent interviews, Ai Weiwei talks to The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore about his childhood, fatherhood, why he is determined to stay in China, and an encounter with plain-clothed policemen in a local park:

“Neither of them would admit that they were police. They just said they were people walking in the park. But I could tell. I grabbed one of their cameras. They were police, and they can be very tough, of course. But I can be tougher sometimes.”

After grappling with the policeman, he managed to get a memory card out of the camera. “When I got back to my home, I put the card in my computer and I saw something shocking. There were images of my assistants in the park, shot from far away, of the restaurant where I eat, of different young guys and students, in different locations. You know they do this all the time, but it is shocking to see it,” he says.

… By the end of the encounter, Ai and his two surveillance officers had visited the local police station, and the younger policeman was on the verge of tears.

“I said to him he should admit he had done something wrong,” recalls Ai. “He said: ‘Please understand it is not easy to do this job’. I told him I would not reveal his name on the internet, but he should think about the 81 days I was put in jail, when my mother and my wife and child did not know where I was. I asked him if he thought that was right. He was speechless. He was an ordinary person, but part of this system. I do not have a problem with him. I am fighting against someone I will never know.”

Ai also discusses his constant surveillance in a pair of videos at Slate, and talks about his short-lived response to it in the form of live webcam feeds from his studio-home at WeiweiCam.com.

Click through for part two.

At The Telegraph, Moore writes that, on the way to the interview, his taxi driver confused Ai Weiwei with “that blind guy in sunglasses”, Chen Guangcheng. Ai, amused, acknowledged that the two share some values and experiences. He talked more about Chen Guangcheng in an interview with Reuters’ Sui-Lee Wee on Tuesday.

“Through his efforts, his strong spirit and incisiveness have made it so that other Chinese people have no excuse to still be living in fear because their situations will never be worse than his,” Ai said on Tuesday in his most extensive comments on Chen’s case since his escape.

“The most unfair things that could have happened in a society fell upon a blind man,” Ai said. “This is something that no one can accept or explain away with any excuse. Everyone will ask: ‘Do we actually have to exist in a society like this …?’”

Ai does not know Chen personally and said he was “extremely surprised” when he received a call from him in New York on Saturday.

“I like you very much,” Chen told Ai, to which Ai replied: “I’ve liked you all along too.”

See other recent pieces on Ai Weiwei by Edward Wong at The New York Times and Mark MacKinnon at The Globe and Mail, via CDT, and also our current Word of the Week post, ‘Love the Future’.