China: Renowned poet and artist Ai Weiwei detained

Beijing: China's most famous artist and poet has been arrested for reasons not yet known. Police searched Ai Weiwei's studio, took his computers, and interrogated his assistants. (via Steve Silberman)


  1. When Ai Weiwei isn’t being harrassed by the government, he is harrassing the government. The reasons are always known; he is hyperbolically critical of the Chinese government and the rapid development of China as it follows a Western model. He gets detained and harrassed regularly for it, as the Chinese think it’s ok to beat dissidents into submission. He’s more popular than most, so the world sees their brutality, and that tends to modulate their attacks on his very large compound. There is way more to the story than you see generally. He is more political than artistic, and manages to stay relatively free while saying really wild things.

  2. Here’s a twitter SF story by blogger Stainless Steel Mouse, now under house arrest. It speaks to the crackdown mentality:

    From a friend living in China: “Big crackdown the last few months. People are disappearing, police showing up to cart bloggers off. China spends more on domestic security than its (huge) military. Chinese are bogging like crazy and making a difference in government response to events. Still, most users here look at soap operas, not politics.”

    In the USA, we are completely different. According to a Wash Post story in 2010 by Dana Priest quoted by Glenn Greenwald this week, NSA only collects around 1.8 billion email, texts, cell phone messages a day. The real crackdown has yet to happen.

    1. gmoke is correct – someday there WILL BE a crackdown in the U.S., in the name of “freedom.”

      Do you have your 2048 bit encryption, laser-network and code-talkers in place? We’ll be needing them.

      1. In the event of some suicidal government crackdown, you shouldn’t be worrying about your encryption. You should be worrying about how long you can take getting smashed in the head with a pipe before you hand over the passkey.

  3. A crackdown in the US? Good luck. The US population is an armed on, with a mandate in the Constitution to violently overthrow an oppressive government. I don’t think anything like a Chinese crackdown on political dissidents could be pulled off in the US without giving 5 million angry drunken rednecks the excuse to shoot, burn, and blow stuff up that they have been looking for.

    China’s government is cracking down because their corruption and severity has led most Chinese to be very unhappy with their government. They know their hold on power is tenuous… and crackdowns just serve to fan the flames of dissent. OR maybe not… perhaps they will selectively breed a population that likes them by removing all the dissidents from the gene pool.

    1. The problem there is they will start by taking out all the people the rednecks want locked up and thrown out first. The rednecks will whole heartedly support this action.

      Then they will demonize the next wave and 5 million becomes 4 million, then 3 million.

      Then they will begin to wonder why the pot they are swimming in is starting to get warm.

    2. “…without giving 5 million angry drunken rednecks the excuse to shoot, burn, and blow stuff up that they have been looking for.

      Except when the crackdown comes, it won’t be the angry rednecks the government comes after. The crackdown will be against college profs, lefty dissidents, environmentalists, etc.

      I don’t think the angry drunken rednecks have anything to fear.

  4. I imagine that there could be crackdown in the US someday but there would have to be a lot intermediary steps that watchdog citizens would not allow. How are they faring with the internet “killswitch” for instance? They need to have cyber attacks of some kind of enormous scale before they can sell some “security” ideas.

    I don’t think we are headed in the dictatorial regime direction. Sure Karl Rove imagined a future with only a Republican majority forever and forever but it’s not likely to occur (I don’t think Id want a Democratic majority forever and ever either to be honest). Power in this country is in the corporate sector. It may someday look more and more like they are “farming” consumers but they aren’t organized enough to actually be indistinguishable from government. Industries might be organized, but not the array of corporate powers in toto, and beside even drug dealers know not to take the turf war to where their junkies are.

    I can’t see the US crackdown as a practical reality, thankfully. It doesn’t hurt to keep a close eye on them though.

  5. Betting this is related to his talk on TED last month (videotape), bizarrely refuted by a conservative Chinese on stage (WHAT that guy was doing at TED, and why they gave him stage time, escapes me…).

  6. Does anyone know of any reputable non-profit organizations advancing human rights and the ability to protest in China? It seems like a nightmare over there. I’d really like to help if I can.

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