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Taipei art center calls for release of Ai Weiwei

2011/04/15 11:07:52

Taipei, April 15 (CNA) An art community in Taipei called on theChinese government Friday to release Ai Weiwei, a famous contemporaryChinese artist and pro-democracy activist who has been detained byauthorities in his country since early this month.

According to foreign wire service reports, 53-year-old Ai wasdetained at Beijing's international airport as he was preparing toboard a flight to Hong Kong on April 3. Since then, the art world hasbeen calling for the Beijing government to immediately free Ai. TheGuggenheim Museum in New York City has launched an online petition,appealing for the artist's release.

The Taipei Contemporary Art Center (TCAC) on April 9 joined thecall, issuing a statement that urged the Beijing government torelease Ai and other democracy activists as soon as possible.

On Thursday night, the TCAC hosted a forum at which Ai and hisrecent detention were discussed. The forum was titled "Who Is Afraidof Ai Weiwei? -- Ai Weiwei's Artistic Practice and SocialResistance."

"Personally, I see Ai as an artist and a political activist,whose artwork incorporates political activities," said Manray Hsu, anart critic and co-founder of the TCAC, during the panel discussion.

He said people in Taiwan had lived through a hard period whenthey were deprived of their basic human rights, referring to thewhite terror era during the period of martial law from 1949 to 1987.

The center is urging Beijing to respect universal values,including freedom of speech and freedom of thought, and toimmediately free Ai, Hsu said.

The other panelists included art critic Chang Tieh-chih, NationalChengchi University professor Kuo Li-hsin, and Li Shih Chieh.

Hsieh Hsiao-yun, director of Taipei City's Department of CulturalAffairs, was a guest speaker at the event.

When asked by the packed audience whether she supported theappeal for Ai's release, Hsieh said she thinks Ai is ahumanitarian who cares about China and the Chinese people, and itwas very sad to see him arrested.

"I hope Ai can return home safe and sound," she said.

Taipei will host a solo exhibition featuring Ai's work later thisyear, whether or not he is released, she said.

(By Hermia Lin)