Ai Weiwei Blocked from Leaving China

In advance of the December 10 Nobel Award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, the Chinese government is making sure no one of interest will be able to attend on behalf of Peace Prize awardee Liu Xiaobo. Today artist/activist Ai Weiwei was prevented from leaving the country, even though he says he had no plans to attend the ceremony. From the Telegraph:

Mr Ai, 53, said he was about to board a flight for Seoul in South Korea when he was stopped by Chinese officials at Beijing airport. He said he had been informed that allowing him to leave China was a risk to national security.

He said he believed he had been stopped because Communist party officials suspected that he might try to attend the Nobel Peace prize ceremony on December 10 in Oslo.

…Mr Ai, who is currently exhibiting an installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in London, said he had not planned to attend the Nobel ceremony. “I was going to Seoul because I am a curator for the Gyeongju Biennale,” he said. “Then I was flying onto Berlin and the Ukraine for other art events.”

Also from AFP

“They showed me a note from the Public Security Bureau, which said my leaving China could harm national security,” he told AFP by phone, adding he thought police had been alerted by Twitter feeds saying he had cleared customs.

Ai said he believed the restriction was linked to the Nobel ceremony due to take place on December 10 in Oslo — a sensitive event for China after jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the peace prize.

Scores of activists and lawyers have been prevented from leaving China in recent weeks in what is widely seen as a crackdown linked to the prize, which has angered the government.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has said it is now “difficult to maintain friendly relations” with Norway in the wake of the Nobel PEace Prize announcement.

See also an op-ed from writer Ma Jian about Liu’s prize and the international reaction:

Today, many individuals and countries are demonstrating their support for the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s decision to award the prize to Liu. Indeed, Havel and a previous laureate, Desmond Tutu, were consistent advocates of awarding the prize to him. But, in addition to supporting Liu’s achievements by making certain that they are represented at the ceremony in Oslo, world leaders need to come to grips with the Chinese government’s reaction.

Although much of the world recognizes that it is in economic competition with China, it often fails to see that it is also in moral competition with China. The Communist Party of China used to rule a destitute power. But, having become much richer over the past three decades, China is now proposing to the world its own model of development – and, indeed, of civilization.

This model, which some have dubbed “The Beijing Consensus” is explicit: there are no moral standards, only material ones. Human rights and freedom can be made to disappear not only from Web sites, but also from reality.

Though now better off than they have ever been in material terms, the Chinese people under the current regime are denied any real opportunity to retain and refine their own dignity beyond the quest for wealth and luxury goods. Liu’s prize is a rebuke to the regime, because it rejects the dogma that nothing but the pursuit of economic interest matters.


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