“Ai Weiwei, male, 53 years old. On April 3, 2011 around 8:30, at Beijing Capital International Airport, before boarding a flight to Hong Kong, he was taken away by two men. More than fifty hours later, present whereabouts remains unknown.
Please, anyone who knows the whereabouts of the above, contact the family.”
That was the flyer that began circulating on the Internet after Chinese artist and activist “disappeared.”
Evan Osnos, in his blog on the New Yorker’s website, wrote on April 7 that the flyer “was censored moments [after being posted].”
Since then, news about Ai Weiwei– indeed, evidence of his very existence– has been systematically erased from the Internet in China.
Ai Weiwei is deemed a serious threat by the Chinese government because he has been openly and fearlessly critical of the country’s leaders and its culture of silence, censorship, and suppression of free expression.
In this prescient March 2010 interview with The Guardian, Ai Weiwei explained why he has been so confrontational in his life and his art, and says, eerily, “Life is never guaranteed to be safe.”
Many NGOs and online activist groups are organizing efforts to call for Ai Weiwei’s release. If you’d like to check any of those out and support this cause, Avaaz is a good place to start. The website Free Ai Weiwei provides updates on the situation.