Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom has expressed his dislike of the artist dissident Ai Weiwei’s work in a television interview yesterday, stating it is “not my taste.”
Xiaoming told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that he believed the artist had only reached such a high level of fame because of his ongoing criticism of the Chinese government, and that there are many better artists from his home country than Ai, describing Ai Weiwei as a “so-called artist.”
The ambassador continued his attack on the artist: “There are so many talented Chinese artists, many much better than him, why is he so famous? Because he’s critical of the Chinese government!” Liu told the BBC. “The reason he was under investigation was because of his economic crime. He was under suspicion of fraudulent accounting, destroying accounting documents,” the ambassador explained.
“Would the same artist be investigated with this criminal record in the UK?” Xiaoming asked.
Ai has been a frequent critic of the Chinese government’s policies. His globally acclaimed work often explores the limits placed on the right of people in China to express themselves, as well as his personal experience of incarceration. The artist’s activities and work frequently deal with sensitive issues that the Chinese government would prefer were not raised.
In 2010, Ai was briefly detained and severely beaten by security officials just before he was due to testify for the defence during the trial of Tan Zuoren, an environmental activist who, along with the artist, had documented the names of thousands of children who died during the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Ai was detained in 2011 for 81 days without charge. A company he founded was later convicted of tax evasion by the Chinese authorities. The artist remained under surveillance and was unable to leave the country. Ai was released on one year’s probation in June 2011, but the government retained his passport – which it recently returned to the artist prior to his survey at the Royal Academy of Arts as a celebration of his inclusion as an Honorary Royal Academician.
The BBC went on to question China’s human rights record, but the ambassador stressed that “when you talk about human rights you don’t have to miss the big picture in China. I hope people realise how much progress China has made in the area of human rights.” Liu Xiaoming added: “We do not shy away from discussions about human rights.”
Photo: P A Black © 2015