The decade's most triggering comedy
Appearing on PBS’ “Firing Line” with host Margaret Hoover, Chinese activist Ai Weiwei, an artist who was taken into custody in the past and whose father, a poet, was persecuted during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, warned, “In the United States, with today’s condition, you can easily have an authoritarian. In many ways, you’re already in the authoritarian state. You just don’t know it,” adding, “Many things happening today in U.S. can be compared to Cultural Revolution in China. … Like people trying to be unified in a certain political correctness. That is very dangerous.”
“The artist first became ‘a nail in the eye, a spike in the flesh, gravel in the shoe’ of the Chinese Communist party when he orchestrated the gathering and publication of the names of 4,851 children who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Their deaths, Ai writes, were a direct consequence of corruption and the unsafe construction of school buildings,” The Guardian reported.
“The government hit back,” The Los Angeles Times noted, adding:
When he was in Chengdu to testify on behalf of fellow activist Tan Zuoren, police barged into his hotel room and struck Ai on the head. Weeks later he was hospitalized with a severe headache, the result of intracranial bleeding that became life-threatening. Doctors had to drill through his skull to drain the blood. Police installed surveillance cameras around his compound outside Beijing, and in 2011 the government bulldozed his Shanghai studio. Soon afterward, they arrested him.
Hoover started her interview by noting that Ai “went from helping to create the iconic Bird’s Nest Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics to becoming a captive of the Chinese government” and that he had a recently published memoir entitled “1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows” in which he detailed not only his but also his father’s exile as well as imprisonment.
Chinese government very sophisticated. They succeed in every way for propaganda. They believe if they keep presenting the untruthful conclusion, the history will also write that way. … At the very beginning, I do feel Internet would liberate China, because that’s the first possibility for individuals like me can speak out. But very soon, Chinese government learned faster than anybody. They know how to control the Internet. They hired probably millions of Internet police, just watch every sentence. So every move, every act on the Internet would be clearly recorded and calculated. … So it becomes so sophisticated for censoring and monitoring every individual. And it’s beyond imagination.
Asked if he saw any hopeful future possibilities for China, he answered, “I don’t think so. Not in a short time.” He asserted, “As long as I can keep expressing myself, I’m in good shape, because I can always extend my emotions and my opinions towards other people who never have a chance to speak out their mind.”
The Guardian quoted Ai writing in “1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows” that censorship “is the cruellest form of violence.”