PEN International is seriously concerned for the welfare of internationally renowned artist and prominent government critic Ai Weiwei following his arrest at Beijing airport on April 3, 2011. PEN calls for his immediate and unconditional release and for the release of all those currently detained in China for the peaceful expression of their views. It also seeks urgent guarantees of the safety of Ai Weiwei and demands that he is given full access to his family and to legal representation immediately.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, Ai Weiwei was detained at Beijing International Airport on April 3, 2011, while preparing to board a flight to Hong Kong, where he had been due to participate in artistic exchange activities. Later that day police raided his home and studio, questioned his wife and eight assistants, and confiscated computers. No news was given about his whereabouts or the reason for his arrest until April 8, 2011, when it was reported by the official Chinese News Agency Xinhua that Ai Weiwei was under investigation for suspected involvement in "economic crimes." His arrest appears to be part of a widespread crackdown on dissent in which writers, journalists, and human rights defenders are among those targeted since February 2011. Ai Weiwei’s whereabouts remain unknown and there are mounting concerns for his welfare.
Ai Weiwei, aged 53, is an internationally recognized artist who co-designed the Olympic Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing. He is one of the most prominent critics of the Chinese government, and has commented frequently on social injustice, the detentions of fellow dissidents, and government corruption on his widely followed Twitter page and blog. Ai Weiwei has been repeatedly harassed in recent years, and in August 2009 was badly beaten by Chengdu police for attempting to testify in the trial of imprisoned dissident writer Tan Zuoren, with whom Ai Weiwei had worked on an investigation into student casualties of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. On September 14, 2009, Ai Weiwei was diagnosed with a cerebral hemorrhage which is believed to be linked to the police attack, and he underwent emergency brain surgery at a hospital in Munich, Germany. In January 2011 his Shanghai studio was demolished by government authorities.
Ai Weiwei's first book, Time and Place, was published by Guangxi Normal University Press in September 2010. The book is a collection of essays on art, architecture, and reviews selected from his online publications in his blogs, which have been shut down since his detention. Its complete uncensored version in Chinese will be published in Hong Kong later this year.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the detention of prominent artist and critic Ai Weiwei, whose arrest appears to be part of a recent crackdown on dissent in which several writers, journalists, and human rights defenders are among those targeted;
  • Reminding Chinese authorities of their obligations under Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a signatory;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in China for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression, including Ai Weiwei;
  • Seeking immediate guarantees of Ai Weiwei’s safety and urging that he is given full access to his family, legal representation, and any necessary medical care as a matter of urgency.

Send Your Letter To

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China

MA Zhenchuan Juzhang
Director of the Beijing Public Security Bureau
Beijingshi Gong'anju
9 Dongdajie, Qianmen
Beijingshi 100740
People's Republic of China
Fax: +86 1065242927

WU Aiying Buzhang
Minister of Justice
10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie
Beijingshi 100020
People's Republic of China

Mr. Meng Jianzhu
Minister of Public Security
East Chang'an Avenue 14
100741 Beijing
People's Republic of China

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for China in your country if possible.

Please contact PEN if sending appeals after April 30, 2011: ftw [at]