Amnesty: Artist's detention part of "chilling" crackdown
Apr 4, 2011, 12:55 GMT
Beijing - Amnesty International on Monday said the detention of renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was part of a 'chilling' crackdown following calls last month for anti-government protests.
Ai's detention at Beijing's main airport on Sunday was a 'troubling development in a widening crackdown on dissent,' the London-based group said.
'We've already seen the chilling effect the 'jasmine revolution'-related arrests have had on Chinese activists and netizens over the past month,' Sam Zarifi, Amnesty's Asia-Pacific director, said in a statement.
'Holding Ai Weiwei takes this to another level,' Zarifi said of the crackdown following anonymous online calls in mid-February for weekly 'strolling' protests in Chinese cities.
'If the authorities are so bold as to grab this world-renowned artist in broad daylight at Beijing airport, it's frightening to think how they might treat other, lesser known dissidents,' he said.
'There seems to be no reason whatsoever for his detention, other than that the authorities are trying to broadcast the message that China's time for open dissent has come to an end,' Zarifi said.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday appealed to the Chinese government to release Ai.
Supporters and assistants said they had no news of Ai on Monday, more than 24 hours after border police detained him.
The Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Defenders said authorities had placed more than 200 activists under some form of house arrest since mid-February.
At least 26 activists were formally arrested on criminal charges while more than 30 had disappeared, the group said last week.
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