Pressure on government to assist Ai

ONE AND THE SAME::Poet and political commentator Lee Min-yung compared artist Ai Weiwei’s treatment by Beijing to that of early political dissidents in Taiwan

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporter

Wed, May 04, 2011 - Page 3

Marking the one-month anniversary of famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s (艾未未) disappearance, several groups and lawmakers yesterday pressed the government to lobby for his safe release following similar calls worldwide.

The outspoken critic of the Chinese regime was arrested on April 3 as he was boarding an airplane for Hong Kong.

He had been expected to meet with representatives from the Taipei Fine Arts Museum three days later to discuss an exhibition in November, a Mainland Affairs Council official said.

His disappearance has provoked a strong response from Taipei, with the council quickly releasing a statement calling on Beijing to release Ai immediately.

However, those calls have since largely subsided amid a continuing wall of silence from Beijing. Chinese authorities have accused Ai, the most renowned of a number of artists and intellectuals who have been swept up by Chinese police since February, of unspecified economic crimes.

“The Taiwanese people must speak out, not only in support of the Chinese people, but also as a measure of protection against our own freedom and human rights,” said political commentator Paul Lin (林保華), a democracy activist from China.

“President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should stand up to support the weak in China and to support human rights activists to showcase Taiwan’s democratic stance — and condemn the Chinese -government’s [role],” Lin added.

Ai, who helped design China’s famed Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics, was widely thought to be untouchable prior to his arrest, in part because of his high international profile.

The arrest suggested that Beijing failed to recognize that artists and dissidents are a “force for improving a country’s society,” poet and political commentator Lee Min-yung (李敏勇) said, comparing Ai’s treatment to the fate shared by early political dissidents in Taiwan.

“We walked [the same] path. This is how we have Taiwan’s freedoms [today],” he added.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers also voiced their support, suggesting that Taiwanese and the Ma administration should be especially vocal given the nation’s close economic and geographical ties to China.

“If we don’t give ourselves a more forceful voice on the Ai Weiwei case, [China] may well see Taiwan as tolerant of such efforts,” DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said.