The internationally-acclaimed Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei is being investigated for ‘economic crimes’. That is how his arrest was reported on the official Chinese news agency Xinhua’s website. The single sentence was removed after an hour.
The 53-year-old had been stopped at Beijing airport on Sunday on his way to Hong Kong. The move has sparked condemnation from human rights campaigners. The US ambassador, Jon Huntsman, has added his voice of support for the artist while some believe the action reflects the governments insecurity.
“Ai Weiwei’s detention above all shows the authorities’ own fear. They don’t know how to manage this society, or how to deal with liberal, independent people. By trampling on the respect that others have for him, they have in reality shot themselves in the foot,” said Pu Zhiqiang, a lawyer and friend of Ai’s.
Ai has been prominent in campaigns against government censorship and political restrictions often incorporating them into his work. His family say he has not been in touch since Sunday. Human rights groups have claimed China’s current crackdown is a response to protests in the Middle East and North Africa.