China dissident Ai Weiwei launches scathing attack on govt

Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:36am EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters) - Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has launched his first scathing attack on the Chinese government since his release from secretive detention in late June, accusing officials of denying citizens their basic rights.

In a strongly worded commentary published late on Sunday on the website of Newsweek magazine, Ai -- whose detention sparked an international outcry -- said the capital Beijing was "a city of violence."

He criticized the government for rampant corruption, the judicial system and its policy on migrant workers -- issues that have inflamed social tensions in China.

Ai's commentary signals his growing impatience with the strict terms of his release from custody in late June after 81 days. It also presents Beijing with a direct challenge on how to handle the country's most famous social critic.

"Every year millions come to Beijing to build its bridges, roads, and houses.... They are Beijing's slaves," Ai wrote. "They squat in illegal structures, which Beijing destroys as it keeps expanding. Who owns houses? Those who belong to the government, the coal bosses, the heads of big enterprises. They come to Beijing to give gifts -- and the restaurants and karaoke parlors and saunas are very rich as a result."

Under the conditions of Ai's release, he is not allowed to be interviewed by journalists, meet foreigners, use the Internet or interact with rights advocates for a year, a source familiar with the events of Ai's detention told Reuters.

Despite this, the burly artist with flecks of grey in his beard has spoken out on his Twitter account on behalf of detained dissidents and his associates who were held during the time that he was and have since been released.

"... Beijing tells foreigners that they can understand the city... Officials who wear a suit and tie like you say we are the same and we can do business," he wrote in Newsweek. "But they deny us basic rights."

When contacted by Reuters on Monday, Ai confirmed that he had written the commentary, saying that it was one that is based on his impressions of living in Beijing, adding he did not know what the consequences, if any, would be.   Continued...

<p>Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei closes the door to his studio after speaking to the media in Beijing June 23, 2011. REUTERS/David Gray</p>