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Supporters Gather For Party at Shanghai Studio while Ai Weiwei House Arrestted In Beijing

Posted by Author on November 7, 2010

Tania Branigan and agencies,, Nov. 7, 2010 –

Hundreds of supporters of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei gathered for a party at his condemned studio in Shanghai today, as he remained under house arrest 650 miles away in Beijing.

Police told him on Friday that he would not be able to leave his home until midnight tonight, after he refused to cancel the event.

Ai, who created Tate Modern’s “sunflower seeds” installation and whose activism has frequently angered Chinese authorities, told the Guardian: “Many had been warned by local police not to come, but they still made the effort and enjoyed music and wine and crabs. It is really amazing. Hopefully [the police] will learn from this that they cannot just use this old way to deal with new conditions. I think with the internet you don’t need to be there to communicate so well. I have spent all day talking to people there.”
He added: “I never encouraged them to go because I didn’t want them to get hurt. But they felt that was their responsibility. It was very touching to see such solidarity. I’m also surprised police didn’t do anything … [I think] they didn’t want another incident because this is already bad enough for them. They regret they have had such bad press.”

Partygoers held up posters of Ai, sang songs and dined off river crabs – their name in Chinese being a homonym for the government’s buzzword, harmony. “In a harmonious society, we eat river crabs,” they chanted.

“It is very orderly,” said one young man, who gave only his surname, Zhang. “We came here just to show our support for Ai Weiwei. China currently lacks the rule of law and I hope that we can build a society that is ruled by law. This is what we need to do.”

Another supporter, Lai Hong, had travelled from Nanjing. “This is just what we call a form of performance art or a form of expression … One should not overreact to this event,” he said.

Ai has enjoyed far greater latitude than most Chinese dissidents, thanks to the respect awarded his father Ai Qing, a renowned poet, his own international fame and his role in helping to design Beijing’s Olympic Bird’s Nest stadium.

Although police stopped the artist from leaving his home, he was able to receive a group of guests from America yesterday. Beijing police declined to comment.

The row began when Shanghai officials told Ai they would demolish his newly finished studio. He said they had invited him to build it because they wanted a new cultural zone, and believes the decision is politically motivated, while officials say the building did not have the necessary permits.

Ai added that authorities in Shanghai had now suggested he could donate the building to the government, possibly for use as an agricultural museum. He questioned how they could accept an illegal structure. “Of course I don’t want it to be knocked down, but they already announced it was illegal so I don’t see how they can take the sentence back,” he added.

The Guardian

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