Ai Weiwei: I “Morally” Won

Ai Weiwei may have lost his appeal of a multimillion-dollar tax evasion fine, but he tried to look at the glass as half-full when speaking to the Daily Beast’s Dan Levin on Friday:

Speaking by phone, Ai said the ruling will ultimately come back to haunt the authorities. “I feel sad for them,” he said. “Young people know what is happening. We morally won the case anyway, and I’m very aware the government really feels paralyzed.”

Ai said he plans to move forward with more legal tactics to show the world how the government makes a mockery of China’s judicial system.

As for his fate, Ai didn’t sound too optimistic. “Maybe I have no future,” he said. “I just have to deal with what’s happening now.”

Today, award-winning filmmaker Alison Klayman’s documentary about Ai debuted in New York. The New York Times calls Klayman’s film, Ai Weiwiei: Never Sorry, a “classic case of being in the right place at the right time”:

“One of the hard parts of making a film like this is that you don’t know how the story ends,” said Evan Osnos, the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, who met Ms. Klayman just before she started the project. “If you’re making a film about Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, you do know, and you structure the story accordingly. But if you’re making a film in real time about a guy who is going down an uncharted path, all you can do is hang on for dear life and see where it goes. To Alison’s credit she stayed with it, because she saw a story of real importance.”

Ms. Klayman said that among her objectives was to use Mr. Ai’s situation to show that not only are there “people interested in pushing the boundaries in China,” but also that “there are cracks for those people to maneuver in.” Citing his use of Twitter, blogs and other forms of social media to get his political message and artworks out, she added, “I do see China as a society with room for a lot of interesting things to be happening, despite the tough nature of authority.”

But she also captures the Chinese state at its most arbitrary and despotic, disregarding the rule of law and international human rights conventions to which it is a signatory. Officials in Shanghai, for example, invite Mr. Ai to build a studio there, then bulldoze it when he falls into disfavor: he responds with a party at the demolition site, serving river crab, whose name is a Mandarin homonym for the “harmony” the government tries to enforce.

July 20, 2012 11:31 PM
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