Ai Weiwei arrest shows end to Chinese dissent: Amnesty

4th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Amnesty International said Monday the arrest of outspoken Chinese artist and social critic Ai Weiwei showed that "China's time for open dissent has come to an end".

The London-based human rights group said the arrest of the artist at Beijing airport on Saturday was a "troubling development" and part of a "widening crackdown on dissent" in China.

"We've already seen the chilling effect the 'Jasmine Revolution'-related arrests have had on Chinese activists and 'netizens' over the past month. Holding Ai Weiwei takes this to another level," said Donna Guest, Amnesty's deputy director for the Asia-Pacific region.

The reference was to the overthrow of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, which sparked more popular unrest in the Arab world which Beijing is apparently determined will not be emulated in China.

"If the authorities are so bold as to grab this world-renowned artist in broad daylight at Beijing airport, it's frightening to think how they might treat other, lesser known dissidents," Guest said.

Amnesty said Ai had not even played any role in calling for protests inspired by uprisings in the Middle East and the Gulf.

"There seems to be no reason whatsoever for his detention, other than that the authorities are trying to broadcast the message that China's time for open dissent has come to an end," Guest said.

© 2011 AFP

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