High Drama in the Middle Kingdom

Only six per cent of Chinese people are happy, according to a poll published earlier this year in China. This may explain why China spends more on internal security than on its military, according to a CNN report, possibly reaching just under $100 billion this year.

It may also explain why the Chinese government has continued to target high-profile dissenters like artist Ai Weiwei. In the latest twist of an ongoing saga, supporters of the artist have stripped down to their birthday, the Guardian reports. The move follows the news late last week that Ai Weiwei and his collaborators were being investigated for having breached anti-pornography regulations by posing in a series of group nude photographs.

It’s been a tumultuous year for Ai Weiwei, as we’ve reported before. Earlier this year he disappeared for 81 days, held in detention for “economic crimes”. The artist was recently slugged with a bill of about $2.4 million for tax arrears and associated fines, which he claims is part of a series of punitive actions meted out on him by the Chinese government as part of a broader crackdown on dissent. Ai Weiwei claims thousands of supporters have sent him donations totalling up to $800,000 to help him pay his bills.

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Earlier this week, visiting Chinese writer-in-exile Liao Yiwu told the Age the Chinese government has cracked down on dissent to prevent spillover effects from the Arab Spring. “The Chinese people were excited when they heard what happened in [the] Arabic world,” he said. “They [went] to the cities, [and] that made the government extremely nervous and they tried to suppress it.” As previously reported, Liao fled China in July after decades of harrassment and suppression by Chinese authorities. “I have the responsibility to let the world know about the real China hidden behind the illusion of an economic boom – a China indifferent to ordinary people’s simmering resentment,” he subsequently wrote in The New York Times.

While Liao Yiwu’s friend Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and key figure behind the Charter 08 movement, is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion, the Guardian reports his writings are about to be published in English. No Enemies, No Hatred, consisting mostly of Liu’s poems, will be published in the US in January with a foreword by Václav Havel. The newspaper has published the translation of a poem written from prison to his wife, who is reportedly missing.

Correction

When we first published this article, we stated in the last paragraph that Liu Xia was believed missing. This is not the case: she is in fact under house arrest.

Liao Yiwu will be appearing at the Wheeler Centre tonight at 6:15pm



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23 November 2011

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