Ai Weiwei: Jail Was 'a Kind of Mental Torture'

Ai jailed for his criticisms of government, not tax evasion, says associate
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2011 11:28 AM CDT
Ai Weiwei: Jail Was 'a Kind of Mental Torture'
Activist artist Ai Weiwei from his Beijing home on June 22. Ai has started talking about his three months in jail earlier this year.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Ai Weiwei spent his nearly three-month detention in a tiny cell, watched 24 hours a day by guards who were never more than 30 inches away whether he slept, showered, or used the toilet. “It is designed as a kind of mental torture, and it works well,” the Chinese artist and dissident tells the New York Times. When Ai was detained at a Beijing airport on April 3, police allegedly told him, "You always give us trouble, now it’s time for us to give you trouble," according to an associate of the artist.

Despite being officially accused of tax evasion, Ai was never questioned about taxes, says the associate; instead he was questioned more than 50 times about his blog and public criticisms of the government: "'How dare you say those things, you are too defiant, disobedient,' they would say." One of the police punishments did not work so well, however—they forced Ai to wash his own clothes, but Ai says he enjoyed that task, as it gave him something to do with his hands. (Read more Ai Weiwei stories.)

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