The Chinese artist Ai WeiWei, who designed the stadium used in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, is — along with Liu Xiabobo – one of China’s most famous political dissidents and activists. He was arrested back in April, held for three months without charges, was psychologically tortured, then charged with tax evasion and let go on the condition that he does not speak to the press, use the Internet, or leave Beijing for a year. Well, he’s already used his Twitter account, and while this may not be technically speaking to the press, on Sunday, Newsweek published an article written by him about how much he hates Beijing. It actually reads like more of a diary entry than an article: it’s fairly short, personal, and very well written — he spent 12 years in the US, starting in 1981. It’s definitely worth reading, if for no other reason than that any summary will rob the piece of its soul.
But for the lazy, unwashed masses, here’s your soul-less summary: Beijing sucks because of its extreme inequality between those who have money and power and those who don’t; also, there’s rampant corruption and a lack of basic human rights, which makes it impossible to feel safe. As for his personal plight, the government ostracizes and exiles dissidents in various outskirts of the city, with the goal of isolating them from anyone they know, and vice-versa. He calls it a constant nightmare, along the lines of Kafka’s The Castle. Reuters asked him about the story, and he said he didn’t know what the consequences of writing it would be.
Hopefully in the long term, the consequences will be a free China.