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Activist: China trying to silence critics

March 17th, 2010
01:35 AM ET

Watch the complete edition on Ai Weiwei on our podcast.

Watch the complete edition with Ai Weiwei on our podcast.

By Tom Evans; Sr. Writer, AMANPOUR.

(CNN) - Leading Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei declared that China's government has no humanity - and that the Communist Party is trying to silence anyone who disagrees with it.

"They crack down on everybody who has different opinions - not even different opinions, just different attitudes," Ai told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

"Simply to have different opinions can cost (dissidents) their life; they can be put in jail, can be silenced, and can be disappeared," he said.

Ai is no stranger to controversy or danger. He helped design the iconic Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but then called for a boycott of the games because in his opinion China was using them as propaganda.

He also faced a barrage of official criticism in 2008 when he assembled activists to collect the names of thousands of unidentified students who were killed in the massive Sichuan earthquake. He also slammed local governments for allowing the construction of shoddy schools that collapsed.

Ai has paid a heavy price for his dissent. He says he was beaten in a hotel room by Chinese police and later needed emergency brain surgery for injuries he suffered in the assault.

Even as Ai spoke to CNN, Google appeared to be moving closer to leaving China in a showdown over Internet censorship and hacking from inside the communist nation.

Popular Western social networking sites are already banned from China. "There's no Twitter in China, there's no YouTube in China, now we'll have no Google in China," Ai said.

"They shut down three of my blogs in seven minutes, so you can see how fearful (Chinese officials are) about somebody speaking out their mind."

He said 12 million people were reading his blog posts until they were closed.

Ai though said there are new technologies that can help people overcome what he called the Great Firewall, but it's available to only a small number of people.

"Now we have about 50,000 people - writers, editors, journalists - who can get the information. And they can get whatever we say in the West," he added.

"It has a great effect on the government. Young people see what we are talking about on Twitter and blogs (and) they would speak the words to different kinds of media. So that can have great potential, if millions of people read them."

Ai said he believes new technology is the only way to bring change to China and he's convinced it will happen one day.


Filed under:  1 • China
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Free American

    STOP wasting our time regarding 'Silencing" the opposition!
    Whatever the Chinese are doing now; it is less than 1% of what the Israelis have been doing for 60+Years to the Palestinians!
    Have you ever visited any Palestrinian refugee camps...Not to mention the palestinians jailed by Isreali Occupation forces!
    The major difference is that the Chinese are our BANKERS who lend us Money; but the Israelis are the ones who are PAID by our
    (US Congress/US Senate/State Dept/etc) in the form of "Foreign Aid". i.e. we pay/reward the Israelis for their behavior which is a HUNDRED times worse than whatever the Chinese do!

    March 17, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Reply
  2. Jaime

    I think, Free American, that it may be fruitless to try to compare one atrocity to another. There certainly isn't enough public information to try to compare Chinese human rights abuses with any other documented human rights abuses, and I would hesitate to make such comparisons in any case.

    There certainly is nothing to compare to the Great Firewall in terms of the sheer scale at which it is successfully silencing dissent in China. Ai Weiwei is an inspiring figure in China, and for good reason – it takes real courage to be speak out against such a powerful system of repression. His work with Twitter has been brilliant.

    March 18, 2010 at 12:40 am | Reply
  3. bunnylover

    Go Ai Weiwei!!!!

    March 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  4. wallcrusher

    China tries very hard to crack down on anyone who discloses scandals on government fraud. A court case in Fujian, China today drew the attention of thousands of dissidents. Three webbers who helped disclosed a girl's death caused by gang rape, rather than accident claimed by the government, were detained for over 9 months and charged by the authority with defamation. Such crack down through victimisation is not uncommon in China; it's just a tip of the iceberg. Demonstrators gathered outside the court before the trial today and were beated and robbed by plain clothes police of their mobile phone, camera, purses and banners . Follow twitter's trending topic #fjwangmin for more information (in Chinese).
    Photos outside the court in Fujian, China.

    March 19, 2010 at 10:52 am | Reply
  5. shoulianyu

    Being a Chinese and living in China for decades, I don't think China is what you guys said to be from my experience.
    The western capitalism society's disgust towards communism is some how more or less due to the threat by China's rapid development. And there exist scandals and wrongs in every society. when you are criticizing Chinese government , you should also notice that Chinese government has made great progress in improving people's life in a way far more quick than many had thought.
    I'm actually much appalled at seeing AiWeiWei crashing and tampering with the Han antiques,which are part of world's cultural inheritance, not just China's . And from your tonge, I can't discern any trace of reproach towards AiWeiWei for doing this horrible thing. This extreme act of AiWeiWei,without considering the irrevocable damage to the culture,classifies him as extremist.

    March 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Reply
  6. aseancat

    China is notorious for keeping secrets. Anybody who bravely express their freedom and right against the opinion of the state is silenced one way or the other/. It is apparent that a person's value is not worth more than a piece of chicken leg for them.

    March 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Reply
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