Ai Weiwei Gives China State Press First Interview

Here are some excerpts of Ai Weiwei’s first official public interview to the Global Times since his release from prison. From Global Times:

Ai agreed to be interviewed but insisted that he not be asked about details of his detention.

Ai said he has resumed normal life and although a condition of his bail forbids him from using Twitter, he still surfs the Internet for news.

Most afternoon he spends several hours with his 2-year-old son, and he walks around the art district where he lives. “I didn’t have much time with my family members before, but now I have plenty of time. I see my son as often as possible,” Ai said with a fatherly smile on his face.

Despite the sensitive issues surrounding his case and his release, Ai talked openly about his emotions, ideas and his thoughts while in custody.  “I was cut off from the outside world. No one told me when I would be released. It felt like I had fallen heavily into a collapsed pit,” said Ai, sitting comfortably with his legs folded under him on his new couch.

Ai said not knowing what was happening to his case was the most worrying especially when he thought of his family. “I missed my mother and my son. I was worried that I might not get to see my son grow up,” said Ai.

During the serene afternoon at Ai’s expansive studio a cat strolls through the courtyard, glances at the dog and disappears. Ai admits he’ll be more cautious in the future but he hasn’t softened.

“I’ve been drawn into the vortex of politics,” Ai told the Global Times. “I will never avoid politics, none of us can. We live in a politicized society.”Ai crossed his arms and looked serious. He paused for a thought and continued: “You give up your rights when you dodge them. Of course you might live an easier life if you abandon some rights. But there are so many injustices, and limited educational resources. They all diminish happiness. I will never stop fighting injustice.”

In his Letter from China for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos writes that the Global Times “deserves some credit, I suppose, for writing about him—though it is promoting the exclusive without mentioning that they printed some of the most strident denunciations of him when he was detained.”

Some suspect that the timing of Ai Weiwei’s first public interview may just be a propaganda ploy by the Chinese government. From AFP:

Anne-Marie Brady, a Chinese media expert at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury, told AFP the interview was likely to have been carefully placed.

“The propaganda department probably wants to take the heat out of the international attention that’s been paid to the situation with and other people who have been put under house arrest for political reasons,” she said.

Ai has been barred from leaving Beijing for a year following his detention, which rights groups say was part of a wider crackdown on government critics amid official jitters that unrest in the Arab world would spread to China.

His comments in the Global Times contrasted sharply with anti-government remarks he posted on his Twitter account — in violation of the terms of his bail — where he hit out at the treatment of colleagues and fellow dissidents.

August 10, 2011, 2:34 PM
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