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Ai Weiwei in hospital after police brutality

by Jörg Heiser

Ai Weiwei has undergone surgery for cerebral haemorrhage in a Munich hospital four weeks after being beaten up severely by Chinese policemen in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China. In previous months Weiwei had been documenting and publicizing the names of more than 5000 children who had died under collapsing, ill-constructed school buildings in the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The alleged attack came on 12 August, the night before he planned to attend the trial against fellow investigator and activist Tan Zuoren, who was charged with ‘subversion’.

Suffering headache since then, which had become more severe during his stay in Munich (he is there in preparation for a show at Haus der Kunst), Weiwei went for a check-up, and doctors advised an emergency operation, he told Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Here is an account of activist lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan (from here, original Chinese source here):

On the night of September 13, I gave Ai Weiwei a phone call to ask him to write a foreword to a collection of poetry by a Suzhou-based poet. Ai told me that he was away in Germany on business and would not be back for a month. If the poet was in a hurry, he was afraid that he did not have the time. I told the poet what Ai said, and the poet said that he’d be more than willing to delay publication if Ai would write him a foreword.

Tonight at half past nine, I got a call from Ai’s assistant Xiao Xu, who said that Ai had been suffering from a headache ever since the violent encounter with the Chengdu police a month ago. It had gotten serious all of a sudden today, and a medical checkup in German had determined that “trauma-induced hemorrhage between the brain and skull” (重挫造成的外颅与脑体间大面积出血, epidural hematoma, perhaps), and the doctors told him to have surgery immediately. Xiao Xu asked me what to do. I said, health is the primary concern. Save documentation of the treatment, and after it’s over, you can have it authenticated by the Chinese embassy in Germany and bring it back to China as evidence.

After I hung up, I sent a text message to Ai. He replied, “I’m outside the operating room waiting for surgery to be arranged. Don’t worry!”

I sent him another message after reading his, but he didn’t reply. He probably was already in surgery.

Since the negotiations in Chengdu, Ai Weiwei has spoken a number of times about legal procedures. I think that even if we are to complain to police supervisors and the letters and petitions office, it’s better to let them make their own investigation first and see what answers they come up with. If there is no reasonable solution, then it’s not too late to start legal proceedings. I reminded him that there may be no resolution through the legal process. Ai said that regardless of the outcome, he would seek an answer according to the law.

Using the pretense of a routine inspection, the police harassed defense witnesses in the dead of night, leveled trumped up charges against Hong Kong journalists, and used violence without taking responsibility for it: do rights and the laws even exist in their eyes?

Ai Weiwei has been complaining for a month, but to date the Chengdu PSB has made no response (two months are allowed, but checking up on the matter would require only a couple of days, so they’re obviously delaying). We’ve decided to wait until after the 60th Anniversary has passed, and if the police have not taken the initiative to contact us, we will seek them out.

May things go peacefully and smoothly for Ai Weiwei!

(image from Ai Weiwei’s twitpic.)

About the author

  • Jörg Heiser's photo

    Jörg Heiser is co-editor of frieze and co-publisher of frieze d/e. He is based in Berlin.