Beijing police detain another prominent democracy advocate

China’s crackdown on free speech and political activists is getting worse. We’ve just learned that Beijing police have detained another prominent democracy advocate, the world-famous artist and nominee for Time Magazine’s 2011 List of Most Influential People, Ai Weiwei, as he tried to board a flight to Hong Kong yesterday.[1]

Fearing that any mention of the revolutions currently sweeping the Middle East might spark similar popular protests in China, the Chinese authorities are cracking down hard. In the past month, dozens of Chinese lawyers, bloggers, and dissidents have been detained or “disappeared” and in less than 24 hours after his arrest, Ai’s name was virtually erased from the Chinese internet.[2]

Today, the UK, Germany, France, and the US all publicly called for Ai’s release, and now it’s time for us to show that the world’s internet users stand with him and the countless number of his compatriots who have been similarly detained. Please sign this urgent petition urging the Chinese government to step up as the global leader it aspires to be, by ending its practice of detaining its critics and attempting to erase them from the internet.


Following an anonymous post on the US-based site Boxun.com in February calling for a Middle East-style “Jasmine Revolution” in China, Chinese authorities have been cracking down on activists of all stripes, even those who have traditionally been immune from censorship. Indeed, Ai Weiwei (who was not even involved in any of the calls for a Chinese Jasmine Revolution) is known as a Chinese hero and China's most famous artist – his Sunflower Seeds exhibit is at the Tate Modern in London right now and he helped to design the “bird’s nest” stadium used at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Now, the Chinese government is attempting to delete all mention of him from the internet, while restricting the movements of countless others.[3] We need to send a strong message to the Chinese government that security and stability comes from addressing the underlying causes of dissent, not censoring it. Ai and his art could be an international example of China’s growing leadership on the world stage, but instead they’ve decided to erase him from national cultural memory, and thereby diminished their stature in the international community.


The Chinese government has recently made strides in expanding access to the internet to its citizens, but this crackdown – the worst in at least a decade – is rapidly jeopardizing any progress that has been made. And now in Big Brother fashion, they’re trying to erase all mention of Ai and many others who have spoken out against the regime.

Ai is clear that human rights are not western values, they are universal values. Yet only the most circumspect posts about Ai, such as this one, remain uncensored:When a fat guy lost his freedom, you said, “It has nothing to do with me, because I’m skinny.” When someone with a beard lost his freedom, you said, “It has nothing to do with me, because I don’t have a beard.” When a man who sells sunflower seeds lost his freedom, you said, “It has nothing to do with me, because I don’t sell sunflower seeds.” When they are after everyone—even the skinny, beardless ones that don’t sell sunflower seeds—there will be no one left to speak for you anymore.”[4]

Please help us free Ai by signing this petition. If enough of us take action now, we can help release him, bring him back to life online, and make sure that Chinese voices of freedom aren’t lost forever.


With hope,
The Access Team

P.S. World renowned human rights advocate Bianca Jagger has teamed up with Access to help drive this campaign, and we look forward to working with her to deliver your petition to Chinese officials.

[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/31/china-disappeared-lawyers?CMP=twt_gu
[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/31/china-crackdown-on-activists-arrests-disappearances
[4] http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2011/04/ai-weiwei-disturbing-the-peace.html#ixzz1IZXH2EyG