Artist Makes 'Time' List

A Chinese social critic detained by his government draws widespread support from abroad.
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Ai Weiwei holding a piece of debris of his newly built Shanghai studio after it was demolished, Jan. 11, 2011.
Ai Weiwei holding a piece of debris of his newly built Shanghai studio after it was demolished, Jan. 11, 2011.

Detained Chinese artist and social critic Ai Weiwei has been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, amid growing calls for his release.

"Ai Weiwei is the kind of visionary any nation should be proud to count among its creative class," read the magazine's introduction to Ai, written by outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Beijing Jon Huntsman.

"Ai, 53, has shown compassion for his fellow citizens and spoken out for victims of government abuses, calling for political reforms to better serve the people," Huntsman wrote.

"It is very sad that the Chinese government has seen a need to silence one of its most innovative and illustrious citizens."

Whereabouts unknown

Ai's sister Gao Ge said the family, who has had no official information about his whereabouts since his detention 20 days ago, was proud of the honor.

"The sad thing is that you shouldn't be hearing this from his sister, but from the man himself," Gao said.

She said that for "very particular reasons," there has been no news of her brother.

Gao said Ai is now paying the price for his previous choices.

"There was no way he was going to ignore the plight of the least privileged, no way he would refuse to speak up for them," she said.

"It is very said that Ai Weiwei can no longer speak out because of the current situation of China's government."

Support from abroad

Ai's detention has drawn criticism from the United States, Australia, Britain, France, and Germany, as well as Amnesty International and other international rights groups.

But Beijing has brushed off international criticism, saying only that Ai is under investigation for "economic crimes" and publishing articles critical of his "maverick" attitude in official media.

The social action website hosted a petition calling for the release of detained artist Ai Weiwei that garnered more than 90,000 signatures, but later came under attack from hackers traced to IP addresses in China.

Others on Time's 100 list of influential people included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British actor Colin Firth, and Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Reported by He Ping for RFA's Mandarin service and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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