As the world continues to wait for news of dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who was arrested on 3 April, Reporters Without Borders is also worried about the former Global Times reporter Wen Tao, who disappeared the same day. Aged 38 and a native of Sichuan, Wen was last seen in the Beijing district of Caochangdi, where Ai’s studio is located.
After being a sports journalist for 11 years, Wen worked for the English-language version of Global Times but was fired last year because of his articles about Ai (see one of his article). He nonetheless continued to write about Ai and cover his activities.
“It is clearly no coincidence that Wen Tao disappeared the same day that Ai Weiwei was arrested,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is highly likely that the authorities decided that Wen posed a problem. He was helping to disseminate Ai’s comments and was regularly covering his projects on the Internet, including Twitter. His disappearance shows that the authorities are not just targeting Ai also those who relayed his criticism of the government.”
The police are still refusing to make any comment about Ai’s arrest aside from claiming that it is to do with “illegal business practices.”
Several documentaries by Ai that are available on YouTube testify to his peaceful struggle for democratic change:
He has already been censored many times by the Chinese authorities in connection with his bold and controversial works, his documentaries exposing the flaws of China’s political system and his outspoken comments online.
Many prominent figures in China and abroad have condemned Ai’s arbitrary arrest. They include Zhao Lianhai, a well-known online activist who created and ran a website about China’s tainted milk powder scandal. Zhao is among those who have called publicly for his release. (See article)
A group of Chinese artists launched a joint appeal for his release on 8 April: http://www.aidoh.dk/?categoryID=358. A special “Free Ai Weiwei” webpage has also been created: http://freeaiweiwei.org/ . Nothing has been posted on Ai’s Twitter page (@aiww) since 3 April, but a new Twitter page has been created: @freeaiww.
A demonstration in support of Ai was organized in Hong Kong on 10 April by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, an NGO.
The Tate Modern Museum in London, which is currently displaying a major recent work by Ai consisting of 100 million hand-made porcelain sunflower seeds, has added flyers calling for his release to the display and has posted the words “Release Ai Weiwei” in large letters on the outside of the building.
A petition launched by the world’s biggest museums has already gathered 14,000 signatures: sign the petition.
Reporters Without Borders issued a report on 3 March about the various methods – including house arrest and forced disappearance – that the Chinese authorities use to cut off dissident writers, lawyers and human rights activists from the outside world.