爱艾未未 | “81天”之十一:艺术收藏家弗兰克妻子的讲述 on my way

关于2011年4月3日艾未未被抓的叙述

/ 弗兰克 和 帕斯卡尔

我们的房子和它的设计者非常相像。

慢慢靠近它时,一些人会为它坚固的外表而感到惊讶。从外面看去,你仅可以看到一面巨大的灰色砖墙,上面甚至没有窗户。但一旦从前门进去,你会讶异于另一番景象:广阔的空间给人一种敞亮无比的感觉,而所使用的建筑材料—砖和水泥,则给人一种坚固且富有力量的感觉。整个房子看上去肃穆但又透露出一种精心雕琢的简洁。

十多年以来,我们一直很享受住在这里的感觉,也一直认为房子的建造者——艾未未,是一个十分正直的人。这种想法在将来也不会改变,无论是从他的艺术还是跟他的个人交情来说。

我们的房子位于一条死胡同里,是艾未未在2000年设计的。第一家住着荣荣和映里,隔壁是刘正刚,接着是艾未未的工作室。我们的房子位于最后,前面还有我们和艾未未一起建立的“艺术文件仓库”展区。

搬到这儿以后,我们还是按照各自原来的方式生活着。我们热衷于生活中能体现创造力、能量以及重生的事物,也很荣幸能生活在中国,有机会近距离了解这个城市、这个国家以及艺术领域所发生的一切。

未未一如既往地工作。他想象、构建然后进行创作,对提出的概念、工艺以及作品的质量都有很高的标准。和他的作品的特点一样,未未是一个敢于直言的人,他对社会现实和理念提出质疑,追求真相及社会和政治公平。他从不做模糊的工作安排、不作空头承诺,也不隐藏自己的缺点,你所看到的都是真实的他。

2000年初期,艾未未和瑞士公司赫尔佐格•德梅隆合作,参与了“鸟巢”的设计,这也是2008年奥运会的标志性建筑。

2009年9月30日,为了庆祝中国60年华诞,《中国日报》推出了题为“《中国日报》60个人,60个故事”专版。

艾未未是这个专版的封面人物。很明显中国政府的宣传和审核部门是认可这个报道的,我们也认为他们想通过一些振奋人心的故事来进行道德宣传。

在中国,历史总是不断被改写。因此当人们担心艾未未当时所经历的一切将被当局者所改变时是非常实际的。

那些年,位于北京五环外郊区的草场地村尘土飞扬,几乎快被人们遗忘。当地人们那时意识到和艾未未合作的潜能,于是请他建了一系列艺术家工作室。他们迅速地将这些工作室卖出,就像当地畅销的面条一样(草场地没有热狗)。随后,草场地迅速成为一个旅游目的地。同时,很多北京不错的画廊都在这儿开张,使其发展为一个艺术区。

我们见证了这里的发展。艾未未对社会的批评越来越大胆和直接,他逐渐开始使用互联网跟全国各地的人交流,普及基本人权及言论自由等思想。他的要求和他的每项工作一样直接、公开而坦白。

当年四川大地震造成成千上万死伤,其中很多孩子因为校舍倒塌而失去生命(而周围的其它建筑则屹立未倒)。尽管父母们因为政府不能给孩子们提供安全的环境感到不满,他们却被禁止公开表达这种愤怒。一些家长甚至被捕或遭到威胁。艾未未感到愤怒并决定代表那些孩子和父母发声。经过艰苦的努力,在一批志愿者的帮助下,他最终收集了大约5000个在地震中丧生的孩子们的姓名、出生日期以及学校名称等。

从2009年10月到2010年1月,艾未未在德国慕尼黑美术馆 (haus der Kunst) 展出作品“记住”。这幅装置作品展示了9000个孩子的书包,以此表达要求政府道歉并反省的诉求。

随着越来越多类似事件的发生,政府部门对这种公开而直白的反对变得越来越紧张、谨慎,有时非常不满。

最近,我们从一些国际媒体上获知有一百多个异见人士或反对者,或者说那些对政府政策或行为表示反对的人,已经被逮捕或者直接“消失”了。因此,现在所发生在艾未未身上的一切我们并不感到惊讶。

未未是新中国建国时期著名诗人艾青的儿子。在文化大革命期间,艾青被肃清、流放到中国西北部偏远的新疆省,被派去军营扫了很多年厕所。在那期间(艾未未1到16岁),艾青和他的家人遭遇了很多磨难。文化大革命之后,艾青得以平反。他去世后,现任领导人包括温家宝和胡锦涛都向他的遗孀高瑛表示了慰问。

艾未未逐渐成为一个社会活动家和批评家,这对当局无疑是一件很尴尬的事,因为政府在对他父亲进行肃清之后又给他恢复了名誉。谁能责备艾未未对当局这种大胆又有益的讽刺态度呢?

2011年4月3日,当未未准备登机飞往香港时,被安全部门人员带到一个秘密的地方。

听到这个消息后,我们立刻开车前往他位于草场地的房子,却发现路已经被警察用警戒线围起来了。我们无法靠近房子,只能看到前门附近有很多人在活动。

通过我们共同的朋友,我们得知他的妻子路青以及中国和外籍员工都被带走了。经过不停的电话询问及后来媒体报道,我们得知外国人没有被询问,而在几个小时之后被释放了,但他们被要求远离艾未未。第二天早上,我们得知路青在头天晚上就被软禁起来了。

我们通过电话联系上了一位共同的朋友,他跟上面提到的几个人有联系。他告诉我们警察给他们出示了一份他们正在寻找的人的名单,我们俩的名字都赫然在列。

四月五日早上,我们驱车前往艾未未和路青家。当时警察已经离开,警戒也已解除。我们按了门铃,但没人应答。

几秒钟后,一辆车窗污浊的车停在了马路对面,里面坐着几个男子。当我们驾车离开后,它也掉头跟上并跟我们保持大约十米的距离,然后又突然停下。我们给路青发了条短信但没有得到回复。第二天,我们得知她已经在前一阵换新号码了。我们又给她的新号码发了信息,表达了我们的同情,并告诉她我们随时可以提供帮助,她后来回了句“谢谢”。

四月五日,星期二,中国移民局给弗兰克(Frank)的助理打电话,我们都被要求前往位于印度大使馆对面的中国移民局办公室。对方告知我们带上我们的护照于中午12点前到达。这是一次关于签证有效期的例行检查。

一位自称是移民局官员的赵先生接待了我们。我们被带到了一间会议室,然后被告知根据惯例,我们的对话将被记录并拍摄下来。接着,他们便在一个纸巾盒子上放置了一个小型摄像机,上面带一个放映设备。赵先生问我们谈话是用中文进行还是需要在翻译的协助下完成,最终我们选择配个翻译。赵先生用英文对我们进行提问然后用中文做记录,他告诉我们这是一次针对签证有效期的抽查。当人们在中国呆的时间较长,政府部门就会对它们的签证进行检查,因为一些人会编造一些借口来申请签证。我们决定试图去了解他们想从我们这儿知道什么,同时我们决定让弗兰克代表我们俩说话,以避免我们所说的东西相互矛盾。赵先生很快便认定帕我只是个家庭主妇,然后我便没被问话,而去观看那些枯萎的植物,胡乱悬挂的窗帘以及放着茶具的脏乱的柜子。

赵先生随身带来了很多纸,其中一张A4纸上印着一个年轻女人的照片。赵先生没有把那些纸给我们看,但是一直拿在我们周围晃,我们也瞟到了这照片好几次。他的两个同事也进来过几次,每次都把这些纸倒腾一遍,我们签证的复印件就在里面。如果这些纸一开始还有什么顺序的话,那么后来则完全被弄乱了,这个举动也让这次谈话显得非常草率。

赵先生问我们艾未未的妻子住在哪,并反复把她念成艾青(艾未未父亲的名字)而不是路青。整个询问过程几乎是围绕着弗兰克在中国的工作以及我们房子相关的财务支出和管理进行的。那些问题让我们觉得他们对我们的房子一无所知,无论是外观设计还是用途。他们问我们住在房子的哪个部分;除了我们还有谁住在那儿;谁给村里支付土地的租金;我们住在那跟艾未未有什么协议;谁为这个房子支付了什么等等。我们很快意识到这次询问逐渐集中在艾未未的财务状况上,他们试图引导我们告诉他们艾未未通过建造这个房子或者让我们住在那来赚钱。

弗兰克的回答有点让人吃惊,他让他们去村委会核实房子的建筑面积,这样他们就能弄清楚我们通过银行支付的款项,他说他凭记性记不住具体的数额。期间,弗兰克问他为什么一直在询问关于艾未未的事,但赵先生说他不能回答我们提出的一些问题。

当问到房子的具体构造和用途时,赵先生告诉我们他曾经是草场地派出所的民警。2006年以前,这个派出所就位于通向我们巷子的一条小街上。他肯定曾多次在附近见过我们,在开车或者步行,因为那时候我们周围几乎没有别的外国人,大家必然会注意到我们。当我们把这个想法告诉他时,他只是笑了笑。

问话结束后,赵先生把他记录的东西口头翻译成英文,然后让弗兰克在上面签字。弗兰克向他索要一份,但赵先生说那不可能,他说如果有疑问,弗兰克或者使馆可以去他们的办公室进行咨询,但没有人能得到这个资料。我们大约下午2点左右离开了那儿,我们能清晰感觉到他们一定对这次谈话不满意,用不了多久我们肯定还会被叫回来。

四月七日,星期四,下午1点,弗兰克又被叫回到同一个办公室。这次,一个叫王辉的人接待了他。弗兰克被要求把他所工作的公司的注册材料带去,这次谈话的主题仍然是关于房子的财务结算问题。此外,还有关于艾未未艺术创作的问题。

“你们买他的作品吗?”“他的作品有多贵?”“你认识其他买他作品的朋友吗?如果有,价格是怎样的?”“你们都是在哪儿买他的作品?是在他的工作室吗?”……弗兰克强烈地感觉到他们对艾未未的作品一无所知,包括他具体创作什么作品,卖什么价格以及卖给谁。他们甚至告诉我他的作品卖的价格很高,路青的一幅画卖到1万元(如果真如他所说的,我们愿意把整个系列都买下来!)。

这一次,他们又问了弗兰克大概两个小时。凭他的直觉,他还会被叫回来。

现在,我们觉得自己某一刻就像是电影《黑色小说》里的人物。给朋友打电话公开讨论这个事情已经行不通了,发邮件也不行。

随后,我们从当天的新闻(路透社 4月7日消息)中了解到,中国外交部发言人洪磊在新闻发布会上说艾未未因为“经济犯罪”正在接受调查。至此,我们之前所猜测的政府会试图通过一种完全不同的方式来解决这件让他们很头疼的事最终被证实了。给艾未未这个年纪的中国人冠上诸如逃税这样的“经济犯罪”罪名来说并不难,因为长久以来就没有清楚而合适的相关政策。从中国政府的角度来说,给一个人按上“经济犯罪”的罪名,而不用承认你侵犯了他的基本权利,这样可以平息国际舆论。

第二天,也就是4月8日,星期五,他们再一次把弗兰克叫去。这次,他们想在下午四点在草场地派出所见他,也就是艾未未和我们住的村。接待弗兰克的是王辉和一个被介绍为姓李的“领导”,他们提出直接去我们的房子进行谈话的想法,顺便查看我们从艾未未那里买来的作品。但是弗兰克拒绝了这一要求,说他不想被他们侵犯我们的隐私。谈话最终还是在派出所进行,他们告诉弗兰克他在中国的生活很不错,有一份体面的工作,住在不错的房子,如果愿意说实话,一切都将安然无恙,但如果“撒谎”的话,很可能惹上麻烦。

问题都集中在艾未未的艺术作品上,包括我们我们拥有它作品的数量,我们什么时候买的、花了多少钱以及如何支付的等等。弗兰克告诉他们我们拥有大约10件或11件未未的作品,其中有一些在比利时,此外,我们自2000年以后就没买过任何作品了。他同时告诉他们我们只是从未未那里买了部分作品,另外一些是未未作为礼物赠送的或者从第三方那买来的。大约6点到6点半左右,他们还是坚持要来我们家给那些作品拍照。弗兰克告诉他们我们家里有客人,他不想打扰我们的客人,也不想他们强迫进到我们家,他们于是决定换成便装。最后,弗兰克提出他们只能在花园里对那些作品进行拍照,他们同意了。

他们都来到了我们的房子,我们拿出一个艾未未做的花瓶,一个仿元代的花瓶,其中只有一半看起来是元代的花瓶而另一半是纯白色的。接着,我们拿出他的“北京之砖”,一块用在北京很多建筑(正如我们的房子)的灰色砖头,放置在一个漂亮的木盒子里。我们还拿出一个镀金的蜂窝煤,最后我们向他们出示了“仰韶复兴”花瓶系列中的一个,是艾未未对古代陶器重新喷漆做成的。这两位工作人员在花园里对它们进行拍照,但看起来对这些东西感到很疑惑。他们似乎期待看到绘画作品,而不是一些他们完全找不到要点的东西。“这只是一块砖而已!”(他指的是“北京之砖”);“艾未未不可能自己做这个东西。”(关于仿元代花瓶);“这个是什么?一个蜂窝煤?它是金的吗?不是!”(关于那个蜂窝煤)。

站在花园里,他们不停地要弗兰克说出每件作品花了多少钱。弗兰克反复告诉他们一些作品是作为礼物送的。他们对整个局面感到越来越不满,然后突然变得很愤怒,说弗兰克一直在说谎,然后就回到车里。弗兰克不想看到这样的结局,所以他跟了上去,告诉他们如果他们的记录显示他说了我们买了10件作品,那么他们的记录显然是错的,因为他从没有那么说过。他们查了下记录,发现弗兰克是正确的。他们叫弗兰克上车,但弗兰克拒绝了,于是他们开始修改记录。根据他们的要求,我们通过邮件给他们发了张我们拥有的作品清单,写清楚哪些是艾未未创作的。

在从派出所返回家之前,弗兰克告诉他们那将是他最后一次单独去接受问询,从此以后,他将带上比利时大使馆的官员和一个律师。他同时告诉他们我们在4月9日到13日期间将去吉尔吉斯斯坦。

在这次问询结束之后,我们的感觉非常奇怪。我们感到非常疑惑,对他们而言,我们也许只不过是整个事件中一个很小的角色,但是我们能感觉到他们专注于这些很小的事情以及现金等问题,但是他们完全忽略了一个事实:他们所纠缠的是当今国际上最著名的现代艺术家之一,他们仿佛一直在黑暗中摸索。

到了周六,也就是4月9日,“艾未未”这个名字已经在网络上被屏蔽了,通过google什么也搜索不到,虽然其他网站还可以看到相关文章,比如通讯社。4月13日我们从吉尔吉斯斯坦回来时,审核已经取消,我们又可以像以前一样在google上搜到他的名字了。

从一个朋友那儿以及报纸上我们得知,相关部门又回到了艾未未家,带走了他的会计资料,他们之前似乎把会计资料忘了。从我们所经历的一切来看,他们这种令人无法理解而又可笑的表现以及做事情的草率完全符合我们对他们的判断。

我们启程前往吉尔吉斯斯坦。我们很开心有这样一个假期,同时很担忧会发生一些不好的事情。比如说,我们不确定政府部门是否会不遗余力地追到机场来问更多地问题,不过这样的事情并没有发生。其实我们也不知道如此小心地提防是不是很愚蠢,或者说我们其实非常有必要这么做。离开中国后,弗兰克抓紧机会通过打电话和发邮件来看看我们能做点什么(Paul D)。

四月十二日,星期二,我们从一篇新闻报道得知路青再次被抓去询问关于纳税的问题。此外,她们的司机小胖以及会计都被抓了。

当天,《卫报》报道了一个叫刘安军的抗议者被释放的消息。根据这篇文章,他宣称他被关了45天,他从警方的调查中了解到政府部门在试图把“茉莉花”事件定性为反对共产党的阴谋。

我们一个和艾未未以及他的合作者走得很近的朋友此前告诉我们,政府给艾未未提供了一个中国政协的职位,这个信息我们再次在《卫报》13号的一篇报道中看到。

我们的朋友告诉我们说我们的邻居刘正刚于4月9日,也就是星期六那天被拘押审问了。刘正刚的住处离我们家大概就20米远,他跟艾未未一起工作多年了,负责监督他设计的建筑工程。我们的管家后来向我们证实了这个事情。直到4月14日,他仍没有被释放。

我们这条巷子第一家主人荣荣和映里,也被问话了。他们是一对由中国摄影师和日本摄影师组成的夫妻,走在中国摄影界的前沿,他们开办的“三影堂摄影艺术中心”,离我们的住所不远。

四月十四日,国际媒体报道称中国政府指控艾未未犯了重婚罪,散布色情信息。这两项指控都非常荒谬可笑,完全不属于一个国家道德标准所能接纳的范畴。艾未未从来没有隐瞒自己养孩子的事情,此外,去了解下公众怎么看待所谓的“淫秽作品”将非常有趣。

四月十五日,星期五,我们回到艾未未家,期望能见到路青。过了一会儿,小韦和他妻子开了门,说路青出去了。然后我们看到赵赵在花园里呆着,小韦的妻子让我们进到屋里。我们和赵赵进行了简单的交谈,有一个中国人把我们的对话全过程都拍了下来。我们能感觉到,他们仍然在坚持过去做事的精神——记录一切正在发生的事,而我对此也完全没问题。赵赵给了我们一个路青的新号码,然后我们给她发了个信息,问她第二天早晨是否会在家以及我们是否方便去拜访她。她确认她将会在家。

第二天早晨,也就是4月16日周六,我们在10点左右到达她们家。路青说在花园里说话应该没问题,她说她觉得她家已经装上了录音监控,她的电话也被监听了,所以她把手机放屋里。我们把我们的电话放在一边,然后坐在花园里交谈。我们讨论了所有发生的一切,她说她从未想过警察会以如此暴力的方式来到她家。她看上去焦虑而紧张,她说她也没有任何关于未未的消息,同时她也见过未未的母亲和姐姐了。她也没有关于小胖和会计的消息。她所说的我们已经多少有些了解,包括她被盘问关于她们公司的财务状况。她告诉我们,她是发课(Fake)公司的法人,所以实际上相关责任应该在她。她告诉调查者她什么都不知道。至于她当前的处境,她说她从来没有问过警方,但似乎是出行自由的。不过她并没有冒险去得太远,因为她不知道这个自由的界限在哪。她还能用电脑上网,有足够的现金买她需要的东西,也有朋友可以前来探望她,这些让我们感到很欣慰。我们告诉她,她如果有需要可随意随时给我们打电话。我们也很惊讶地看到一些未未的合作者仍然在花园以及工作地点进进出出。我们不知道他们在干什么,但至少,他们的生活看上去一如往常,因此路青也不会太孤独。

写于 2011年4月18日 16点

附:原文:

On my way

Our house is very much like the person who conceived it.

Upon approaching it, some people are taken aback by its apparent sturdiness. From the outside, you only get to see a huge grey brick wall with hardly any windows. But once you close the front door behind you, it is bound to inspire you. Its large, open spaces give it a quality of lightness, while the materialsbrick and concrete, give it a feeling of quality and strength. It is sober but breathes refined simplicity.

We have enjoyed living there for some ten years now and we have and will always consider its builder, Ai Weiwei, as a person of very high integrity, be it artistically or on a personal level.

Our house is part of a dead-end alley, which was designed by Ai Weiwei in 2000. First in the row is the house now owned by Rongrong and Inri; then comes Liu Zhengang’s house; followed by Weiwei’s studio; then the exhibition space ‘China Art Archives and Warehouse’ which we set up together with Ai Weiwei; and finally, our house.

After moving into the house, we all continued on our own paths. We, as lovers of creativity, energy and renewal, felt lucky to be in China and to be able to see from close by what was happening in the city, in the country and on the art scene.

Weiwei, did his thing. He imagined, conceived and created, always sticking to his high standards of concept, craftsmanship, and quality. Weiwei is as outspoken as his works. He questions reality, social reality, concepts and therefore truth, justice and politics. There is no obscure agenda, there are no false promises or hidden faults. What you see is what you get.

Early 2000, Ai Weiwei participated, with the Swiss company Herzog and De Meuron, in the design of the ‘Bird nest’; the 2008 Olympic Games landmark.

In its September 30 edition of 2009, celebrating China’s 60th anniversary, China Daily came out with a special edition, entitled “China Daily’s 60 People, 60 Stories”.

Ai Weiwei pictured on the front page. The propaganda and/or censure department of the Chinese government surely OK-ed this publication and we may assume that the idea was to show people of high morality with uplifting stories.

That’s how history is constantly being re-written in China and how it is only realistic to fear that authorities plan to re-write Ai Weiwei’s reality today.

During those years, Caochangdi Village, a bit dusty, forgotten and forlorn on the outskirts of the city, just outside the fifth ring road, realized the potential of working with Ai Weiwei and they asked him to build sets of artist’s studios, which he did. They sold out, as fast as the proverbial hot noodle (no hot dogs in Caochangdi) and on the spur of this, Caochangdi quickly became a must in every tourist destination. Many of the better Beijing galleries chose to set up shop in this village, turned art community.

We all know where it went from there. Ai Weiwei’s social criticism became more and more outspoken and direct and he started to use the Internet to reach out to people all over the country, promoting ideas such as basic rights and freedom of speech.

His quests are as straightforward, open and frank as every one of his undertakings.

When an earthquake in Sichuan province made thousands of victims, of which a majority were children under collapsed school buildings (while buildings around were still standing), their parents were forbidden to publicize their outrage with the authorities that failed to provide a safe environment for their children. Some parents were arrested and/or threatened. Ai Weiwei was justly outraged and took it upon him to be the voice of those children and of those parents. Painstakingly, with a team of assistants, he gathered the names, birthdates, and names of schools etc. of about 5000 children that died in the quake.

From October 2009 to January 2010, Ai Weiwei showed his installation ‘Remembering’ at haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany. The installation showed 9000 children’s backpacks. An outcry for apology and recognition.

Other incidents followed and the opposition of Chinese authorities to this openness and frankness became more and more nervous, retrograde and, at times, aggressive.

Recently, we have been reading in the international press that over one hundred dissidents or opponents or people who spoke out against government policies or actions, have been arrested or have simply ‘disappeared’. Therefore, what is happening to Ai Weiwei now did not come as a real surprise.

Weiwei is the son of Ai Qing ,one of China’s most famous poets of the period of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. During the Cultural Revolution, Ai Qing was purged and sent in exile to Xinjiang, a remote province in the north west of China. He was put to the job of cleaning latrines in army barracks for many years and he and his family (of which Ai Weiwei from age 1 to 16 ) suffered hardship. After the Cultural Revolution, Ai Qing was rehabilitated and after he died, the current leaders Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao were among those to formally apologize to his widow, Gao Ying.

Ai Weiwei’s rise as social activist and critic must without any doubt, have been a real embarrassment to authorities after their own regime first purged his father and later reestablished his good name. And who could blame Ai Weiwei for holding a healthy portion of cynicism against those authorities?

On April 3, 2011, Weiwei was about to board a plane to Hong Kong, when he was led away, to an undisclosed place by security forces.

Upon learning this, we immediately drove to his house in Caochangdi Village, only to discover that police cordoned off the road. We could not get close and could only see that there was a lot of activity around the front gate.

From mutual friends, we learned that his wife, Lu Qing, and his staff, Chinese and foreigners, had been led away. Consecutive phone calls and later the press, learned us that the foreigners had not really been questioned but had been released after a few hours and had been told to stay away from Ai Weiwei’s place. The next morning, we learned that Lu Qing had been placed under house arrest the previous evening.

We managed to reach a common friend by phone. He had been in touch with several of the above persons. He told us that police had shown them a list with names of persons they were still ‘searching’. Both our names were on that list.

On the morning of April 5, we drove to Ai Weiwei and Lu Qing’s home. Police had left and the cordon had been removed. We rang the doorbell but no one ever answered the door.

Within seconds a car with tainted windows and several men inside pulled up on the opposite side of the road and just sat there, observing us. When we drove off, the car turned around, followed us for some ten meters and suddenly stopped again. We sent an sms message to Lu Qing but didn’t get an answer. The next day we learned that she had switched to a new number a while ago and after we sent her a new sms, offering our sympathy and help wherever possible, she later answered with a ‘thank you’.

On Tuesday, April 5th, the Immigration Office of the People’s Republic of China called Frank’s assistant in his company. We were both instructed to come to the offices of the Immigration Office of the PR China, opposite the Indian Embassy. We were told to bring our passports and to make sure to be there before 12:00 noon. It was to be a routine check of the validity of our visas.

A certain M. Zhao, who introduced himself as being an Immigration Officer, received us. We were led into a conference room. We were told that, as a standard matter, our conversation would be registered and filmed and with some effort, a small camera was balanced on a box of paper tissues. Attached to it was a screening device. M. Zhao asked us if the conversation could be held in Chinese or whether we required an interpreter. We confirmed our need for an interpreter. M. Zhao conducted the questioning in English and took notes in Chinese. He told us that this was a random check of validity of visa. That when people staid so long in the PR China, the authorities liked to check the visa because ‘some people use false pretexts to apply for visas’. We had decided to try to just listen what they wanted from us and we had also decided that Frank would speak for the both of us, in order to not contradict each other. M. Zhao was quick to conclude that Pascale was ‘just a housewife’ and she was not addressed after that, but was left to observe the withering plants, the badly hung curtains and the indispensable messy cabinet with tea accessories.

M. Zhao had brought a number of papers with him. One of them was an A4 printout of a picture of a young woman. M. Zhao never showed them to us, but he did move them around in front of us and the picture was in view several times. Two colleagues of him came into the room several times, tossing about these papers each time. Among the papers were the copies of our visa. If there was any order in these papers, it was thoroughly mixed up because of all this tossing about, which certainly gave this activity a very sloppy character.

M. Zhao asked us where Ai Weiwei’s wife lived and repeatedly referred to her as Ai Qing (as is the name of Ai Weiwei’s father) instead of Lu Qing. The questioning was more or less equally divided over the subject of Frank’s work activities in China and over the subject of the financial arrangements of the building and management of our house. The questions led us to feel that they didn’t know anything about the house, its layout or its use. They asked us what part of the buildings we live in; who else lives there; who pays the rent of the land to the village, what had been the agreement with Ai Weiwei about us living there; who paid what for the building etc. It very quickly became clear to us that the questioning zoomed in on Ai Weiwei’s financial situation and they tried to steer us into telling them that Ai Weiwei made money on the transaction of building it or on having us live there. Frank responded a bit surprised, telling them to check the size of the constructed area with the village authorities and that they could find out what payments we did from the bank, and that he didn’t know the amounts by hart. At a certain moment, Frank asked why he kept asking about Weiwei and M. Zhao said that he was not able to answer some questions.

When asking us questions about the general layout and use of the house, M. Zhao told us that he used to be an officer in the Caochangdi Police station which used to be in the small street leading to our alley prior to 2006. He must have seen us drive or walk by dozens of times then, because there were hardly any foreigners around in our neighborhood in those days and people certainly noticed us. When we suggested that he must have seen us in those days, he only smiled.

Upon finishing, M. Zhao orally translated his notes back to English and asked Frank to sign the statement. Frank asked a copy but was told that that was impossible; that he or the Embassy would be allowed to come and consult it in their offices but that no one would be allowed to receive a copy. We left the building at around 14:00 with the clear feeling that they would not be satisfied with this interview and that we would be back before short.

On Thursday, April 7, at 13:00, Frank was called back to the same Immigration Office. This time, an officer called Wang Hui received him. Frank had been asked to bring along the registration papers of the company he is working for. The main subject of the conversation however again was the financial settlement of the house and, this time, also Ai Weiwei’s artistic production. ‘Did you buy his work?’, ‘How expensive was it?’, ‘Do you know friends who bought works of him?’, ‘if so, how much did they pay?’, ‘Where did you buy his works? In his studio?’,… Frank got the strong impression that they did not know anything about Ai Weiwei’s work; not what exactly he makes, nor at what prices he sold, nor to whom. At one point, they told him that his works went at high prices; that a picture of Lu Qing was actually sold for 10,000 rmb (if only we had known; we would have bought the entire series !).

They interviewed Frank for about 2 hours again and he once more left with the distinct feeling that they would call him back.

By now, we started to feel like figures in an obscure second rank série noire.

Calling friends to openly discuss the matter was no longer an option. Nor was using e-mail.

Later that day, we could read in the newspapers (Reuters April 7) that China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei stated, at a news conference that Ai Weiwei was being investigated for ‘economic crimes’. Our feelings, that authorities were going to try to pin him down on something entirely different as what was really bothering them, was now confirmed. Finding ‘economic crimes’ such as not paying taxes will be easy for about any Chinese national Ai Weiwei’s age, because clear and adequate regulations have not been in use for many years. From the perspective of Chinese authorities, to nail a person for an ‘economic crime’, rather than admit that you are violating his basic rights, supposedly will quiet down the international opinion

The next day, Friday August 8, they once more re-called Frank. This time, they wanted to see him at 16:00 at the police station of Caochangdi, the village where Ai Weiwei and we live. Frank was received by officer Wang Hui and by someone who was introduced to him as a ‘superior’ called Li. They wanted to come straight to our house to conduct the interview there and to see the works we own from Ai Weiwei. But Frank refused, telling them he did not want them to violate our privacy. The interview was therefore conducted in the police office. They told Frank that he was enjoying a nice life in China, with a good job, in a nice house. If he told the truth, all would go well, but in case he ‘lied’, he would be in trouble.

The questions focused on Ai Weiwei’s artistic production, on the number of Ai Weiwei’s works we own; when we bought them, how much we paid them and how we paid them. Frank told them we own about 10 or 11 works from Weiwei, that part of those are in Belgium and that we didn’t buy anything after the year 2000. He also told them that we only bought a few and that some of them had been gifts by Weiwei or had been bought from a 3rd party. Around 18:00 -18:30, they insisted to come to our home to make pictures of the works. Frank told them we had guests and he didn’t want to disturb our guests or to have them walk in with a show of force. They then decided to change into civilian clothes. In a last resort, Frank told them that they could make picture of the objects in the garden, which they agreed to. They both came over and we brought out a vase, made by Ai Weiwei; a fake Yuan dynasty vase, of which only half looks like a real Yuan dynasty vase while the opposite half is plain white. Next, we brought his ‘Beijing brick’; a grey brick as used in many buildings (as our own) in Beijing, encased in a beautifully made wooden box. We also brought out a gold plated ‘coal hive’. Finally, we showed them the work ‘Rebirth of Yangshao’; a vase of the series in which Ai Weiwei repainted ancient pottery. The two officers made pictures in the garden and seemed at loss over what they saw. They seemed to expect paintings perhaps, but not objects of which they obviously could not grasp the sense. ‘It’s just a brick!’ (about the Beijing brick); ‘Ai Weiwei could not have made this himself’ (about the fake Yuan vase); ‘What is it? A piece of coal? Is it golden? No!’ (about the coal hive). Still standing in the garden, they kept pushing Frank to say how much each object had cost. Frank repeated that some had been gifts. They became more and more upset with the whole situation and suddenly, angry, said that Frank had been lying all along and they left back to their car. Frank didn’t want to leave it at that, so he followed them and said that if they wrote down that he said that we bought 10 works, then they wrote down an error because he never said that. They checked his declaration and saw that Frank was right. They asked Frank to get back into the car but Frank refused and they started changing the declaration. Upon their request, we sent them a list by e-mail of works we own and that were made by Ai Weiwei.

While still in the police station, before coming to our house, Frank told the officers that this was the last time he would come over by himself to be interviewed; that from now on he would bring along someone from the Belgian Embassy and a lawyer. He also informed them that we would be going to Kyrgyzstan from April 9 to 13.

Our overall feeling after this third session was a very strange one. We were puzzled. For them, we are probably just only one small lead in a large operation, but we felt that they were concentrating on such small matters and on petty cash matters and that they were totally missing the fact that they are dealing with one of the larger names on the international modern art scene. To us, here and then, it certainly felt like they were grasping in the dark.

By Saturday, April 9, the name ‘Ai Weiwei’ was censured on the Chinese Internet. Googling it gave a blank, although articles would open from inside another website, such as a news agencies. By the time we came back from Kyrgyzstan on Apri 13, this censorship had been lifted and we could google his name as before.

From a friend (R ) and from the newspapers, we learned that authorities had gone back to Ai Weiwei’s home, to take the accounting papers, which they previously seemed to have ‘forgotten’. After our own experience, such improbable and laughable performance and sloppiness fitted our picture of their operation.

We left to Kyrgyzstan, happy for the break but not without a gnawing feeling of apprehension about what could go wrong. For one, we were not sure that authorities would not dare to pull a stunt in showing up at the airport to ask some more questions. But nothing of the sort happened and, again, we wondered whether we were just being silly to look over our shoulder like that or whether we had good reason for it.

Once outside of China, Frank took the opportunity to make some telephone calls and mails to find out what we could do. (Paul D).

On Tuesday, April 12, we learned from a news article that Lu Qing had been taken in again to be interviewed on tax matters and that Xiao Pang, their driver had been arrested again, as well as the accountant.

On April 12, The Guardian brought the news of the release of a certain Liu Anjun, a protester. According to the article he declared that he had been held for 45 days and that he had understood from the investigations that authorities were trying to make the case for a conspiracy theory against the Communist Party.

A friend of ours (R ), close to Weiwei and his collaborators, had told us earlier that just a short time ago, Ai Weiwei was offered a position in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). We saw this information repeated in an article of the Guardian of April 13.

Our friend (R) informed us that our neighbor –some 20 meters down from our front door-, Liu Zhengang, who has been working with Ai Weiwei to supervise his architectural projects for many years, had been taken into custody on Saturday, April 9, for questioning. Our housekeeper later confirmed this to us. He had still not been released by April 14.

Rongrong and Inri, owners of the first house in our alley and also of the Three Shadows photography Center, just down the block from our houses, were also questioned. They are a Chinese-Japanese couple of photographers, at the forefront of the photography art scene in China.

On April 14, the international press brought the news that Chinese authorities are accusing Ai Weiwei of bigamy and spreading pornography. Both allegations are ridiculous and well below acceptable moral standards for a nation to hold. Ai Weiwei never made a secret of fathering a child and it would be interesting to see what the larger public would think of the alleged ‘pornographic’ works.

On Friday, April 15 we went back to Weiwei’s home, hoping to see Lu Qing. After a while, Xiao Wei and his wife opened the door, saying that Lu Qing had gone out. We then saw Zhz in the garden and Xiao Wei’s wife let us in. we briefly talked with zhz, while another Chinese man filmed all of us. We felt that they continued in the spirit of what they had been doing in the past; to document everything that is happening and that felt really ok. Zhz gave us yet another new number of Lu Qing and we sent her an sms asking whether she would be home next morning and whether it would be ok for us to drop by to see her.

She confirmed she would be there.

The next morning, Saturday 16, we went to their house at around 10:00 in the morning: Lu Qing told her she thought is was ok to talk in the garden. She said she thought their house was being tapped as well as her phone, which she left inside too. We put our phones at a distance and sat down in the garden. We discussed what had happened. She said that they had never expected the police to come down in this way and with such a show of force. She looked worried and tense. She confirmed that she had no news whatsoever of Weiwei. She had met with his mother and sister too. She also had no news of Xiao Pang or of their accountant. She told us what we more or less knew; that she had been questioned, mainly on the economics of their ventures. She told us that she’s the legal person behind Fake so that in fact, that responsibility lay with her… she had told investigators that she knew nothing. As for the practice side of her situation, she told us that she had never asked but seemingly was free to go out. She didn’t venture out too far because she didn’t know how far this freedom would stretch. We reassured outselves that she had access to a computer and internet; that she had enough cash to buy whatever she needed and that she had friends visiting her. We told her she could call on us whenever she needed. We were pleasantly surprised to see a few of Weiwei’s collaborators still walking in and out of the garden and working spaces. We don’t know what they were doing, but at least, there was some sense of normality to them being there and Lu Qing was not alone.

April 18, 2011 – 16:00

(From Pascale, wife of Frank – account of experience on April 3, 2011 when Weiwei was detained.)

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2013年6月6日, 4:28 下午
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