Has China Decided to Declare Ai Weiwei a Criminal?
Has China Decided to Declare Ai Weiwei a Criminal?
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April 6 2011 3:10 PM

Has China Decided to Declare Ai Weiwei a Criminal?

A terse English-language item from the Xinhua news agency earlier today appeared to provide an update on the detention of Chinese artist/dissident/dissident-artist Ai Weiwei :

Police authorities said late Wednesday they are investigating Ai Weiwei for suspected economic crimes in accordance with the law.

With two hours, the one-sentence story disappeared; the

now leads to a page saying:

Sorry, this news has been deleted.

There has been no official detention notice to explain why (or where) Ai is being held. Chinese police have the power to delay such notice to protect ongoing investigations, which had led to speculation that Ai could face actual prosecution, rather than the gray-area detention and harassment that's been widely applied to dissidents during China's


An editorial this morning in the Global Times, an English-language newspaper run by the Communist Party-line People's Daily, denounced Ai as "a

" who "likes to do something ambiguous in law."

Ai Weiwei chooses to have a different attitude from ordinary people toward law. However, the law will not concede before "mavericks" just because of the Western media's criticism.

Ai Weiwei will be judged by history, but he will pay a price for his special choice, which is the same in any society. China as a whole is progressing and no one has power to make a nation try to adapt to his personal likes and dislikes, which is different from whether rights of the minority are respected.

The idea of Ai being prosecuted for being a "maverick" and making a "special choice" to challenge the law would seem to be at odds with his being charged with something as apolitical as "economic crimes." The overarching message though, is that the authorities have decided that Ai Weiwei is unlawful—the particular law doesn't seem to matter.



Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.