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Human rights in China

Dissident artist Ai Weiwei ‘surprised, confused’ by Chinese people’s support for Donald Trump

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 November, 2016, 5:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 November, 2016, 10:21am

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei said in New York on Wednesday that he is confused by how many Chinese people – both on the mainland and those that have emigrated to the United States – are fans of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

He also said that the winner of the November 8 election – either Trump or his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton – should not to give up raising human rights issues when dealing with China.

My political activism is helping efforts to change China, says artist Ai Weiwei

“Some of the people in China were human rights defenders,” said Ai as he gave a talk before Saturday’s opening of his new show in the city, “Laundromat”, featuring cast-off belongings collected from a refugee camp.

“But here many of them openly talk about how much they love Trump. I can’t understand it,” he said, adding that their craving for power and conservatism appeared to him to be a “phenomenon”.

“A lot of Chinese people love Russia’s [leader President] Putin. They also love strong leaders.”

During his presidential campaign Trump has constantly accused China of “stealing jobs” and manipulating its currency, the yuan, and he has also threatened to launch a trade war.

On the other hand he has previously described the Tiananmen democracy protest in 1989 as a “riot”.

Ai offered some China policy advice to the next US president, calling on Washington to maintain good relations with Beijing.

Ai Weiwei installation shows his days in detention at Venice Biennale

However, he said that it would be a mistake for the new US president to negotiate further economic ties with China at the expense of human rights and other universal values because it would cost America the respect of the world.

“There is no excuse for sacrificing any of these values – not to mention human rights – and not to defend all of these values,” Ai said.

He also criticised what he said was the lack of such universally shared values in China. He recalled the time in 2011 when he was arrested and interrogated by the Chinese authorities and held in detention for 81 days over allegations of “economic crimes”.

He claimed the rule of law did not exist in the country.

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Ai also said there was “no room” or “no space” that allowed artists to touch on political issues.

He said that despite China having a large population of 1.3 billion people, the nation had no real “people” because of the lack of freedom of speech.

“If there is no voice, there are no people,” he said. “Nobody feels secure. The problem is that in society, nobody trusts anybody, nobody believes in anybody. That is a real problem.”

Ai was also asked about Hong Kong’s struggle for democracy under the “One country two systems” and how the international community could be of help.

The artist, who openly expressed his support for the “umbrella movement” in 2014, said nobody understood the situation and its urgency better than the Hong Kong people themselves.

“Of course you can ask for other people’s help, but I don’t really believe that,” Ai said.

“It takes an individual or a group or any geographical location – small or large – to make their voice be heard, and come out [with] some kind [of] resolution. There is no other way. It doesn’t come [from] anywhere else.”

He added: “I think everybody has to defend, has to fight, has to really make their own voice be heard. And that’s all.”