Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) has made a 102-minute film about the death of a villager whose crushing by a truck sparked public anger and rattled authorities, he announced on Friday.
A court in Zhejiang Province in 2011 ruled the gruesome death of 53-year-old Qian Yunhui (錢雲會) accidental, triggering outrage from those who suspected he was killed for campaigning over land seizures.
“We don’t know how he died,” Ai said by telephone. “It’s not possible to take a position because in China there is no truth for any incident. It’s just always half of the truth and half of the truth is not the truth.”
Ai, an internationally renowned avant-garde artist, has emerged as a fierce critic of the government in Beijing, often through his prolific use of the Internet.
The film about Qian — which Ai said took two years to make — was posted on YouTube and includes footage of the site of the death and interviews with villagers and others about the case.
Qian, the leader of Zhaiqiao Village, had sought compensation for farmers whose land was confiscated to make way for a power station, and his death stirred passions after doubt was cast on the official version of events.
Explicit photographs posted online appeared to show him crushed under the wheels of a truck.
Qian had been detained three times since 2005 for repeatedly demanding compensation for farmers after nearly 150 hectares of land was seized by Zhejiang Provincial Energy Group Company, earlier reports said.
Chatrooms hosting discussions of the case on Netease and other major Chinese portals were later shut down, apparently to stifle anti-government comments.
Land requisitions by the authorities, often in collusion with real-estate developers, remain one of China’s most controversial issues, with officials routinely accused of enriching themselves through arbitrary land grabs.
The Chinese Communist party has indicated mounting concern over that and other controversial issues, such as corruption and environmental degradation, that are blamed for thousands of public protests each year.
Ai’s outspoken criticism of China’s leaders and involvement in sensitive social campaigns have made him a thorn in the government’s side.
He is known for tallying the number of schoolchildren killed in a 2008 earthquake, a taboo subject because many schools collapsed while other buildings did not, fueling suspicion that corruption led to poor construction.
Ai was detained for 81 days in 2011 during a roundup of activists at the time of the Arab Spring popular uprisings.
On his release, he was accused of tax evasion and barred from leaving the country for one year.