Ai Weiwei assaulted

He was prevented from testifying in defence of activist Tan Zuoren

One of China’s leading artists, Ai Weiwei, was punched in the jaw and detained in a hotel room by the authorities to prevent him testifying for the defence in a case against activist Tan Zuoren. Tan is charged with subversion after attempting to compile a database of those killed in the Sichuan earthquake of 2008—which left an estimated 88,000 people dead or missing—and campaigning about the number of children killed by collapsing school buildings which it is alleged were of substandard construction, a view advocated by Ai Weiwei. The artist had rented a large suite in a hotel in Sichuan. “At 3.23am there was violent beating on door,” said Ai. “There were about 40 of them in uniform. They kicked open the door, it was on a chain, and they punched me in the face. They said we couldn’t leave the room until noon, when the court hearing would be finished.” Ai said that in China only two newspapers—The China Daily and Global Times, both in English—mentioned the incident, though hundreds of media outlets worldwide have reported the case.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 205 September 2009