He spoke after paying some 8.45 million yuan ($1.3 million) to the tax bureau – the result of donations from tens of thousands of well-wishers. The unprecedented campaign – alongside the extraordinary on-line support for blind activist lawyer Chen Guangcheng – is the latest indicator of a “pluralization of social values and interests” undermining the Communist party’s control of political discourse.
“I’m speaking up, not for myself, but for those who have no voice,” Ai, 54, told Reuters.
“I hope that when society looks at me, they’ll remember that I’m not an individual case,” he said. “Many people don’t understand why they can’t be with their children, they aren’t able to see the people they want to see. Their voices will never be heard.”
Responding to extensive international media coverage of Ai Weiwei’s case, the official Global Times published an indignant editorial, insisting that Ai is an inconsequential figure. The predominant social trend, it said, is towards the elimination of “Ai Weiweis.” (Hat tip: China Digital Times.)
“There’s little political risk in donating money. It’s not as sensitive as, say, signing a petition, so I think that’s one reason why Ai Weiwei has attracted such wide support,” said Zan Aizong, a dissident in eastern Hangzhou city.
“But this also shows the rights defense movement is still stubborn and is becoming a bit bolder,” said Zan.
Why won’t the Communist authorities simply release Chen Guangcheng and his family? Because of mianzi, or “face,” writes Chen Min, former editor of China Reform journal:
The authorities know that what they have been doing is unjust and illegal. But they saw the gathering of activists as an affront, and responded harshly because the government could not afford to lose face — which would undermine its power in the public’s eyes.
Do they really feel their legitimacy is so brittle, their authority so frail?
Congressional-Executive Commission on China
“China’s Censorship of the Internet and Social Media: The Human Toll and Trade Impact”
Thursday, November 17, 2011
10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Washington, DC, Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2226
China’s tightening censorship amidst a boom in the popularity of social media and the Internet raises important questions regarding both the human dimension and the trade impact of these trends. Chinese citizens are increasingly criticizing the government and Party while accessing greater information online, but face imprisonment and harassment for their actions. This hearing will first examine the human toll from online censorship.
The U.S. Trade Representative is also seeking greater transparency on China’s Internet censorship at the World Trade Organization. The second panel will look at the growth of China’s Internet and the role that trade remedies can play in combating China’s Internet censorship and ensuring U.S. companies have access to China’s market. U.S. companies, from leading tech firms to small businesses, are shut out of China, while Chinese versions of these companies flourish and raise millions of dollars overseas, including in the United States.
This hearing will be webcast live.
Alex Li, college student and son of Li Yuanlong, who served two years in prison for commenting on the Communist Party online
Pastor John Zhang, Christian political dissident who was imprisoned for two years following the 1989 Tiananmen protests and who currently assists families of Chinese political prisoners
Xiao Qiang, Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley; Founder and Editor-in-Chief of China Digital Times
Gil Kaplan, Partner, King & Spalding; President of the Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws
Edward Black, President and CEO, Computer & Communications Industry Association