Police probe adds to controversy surrounding Ai Weiwei

Print E-mail Xinhua, April 10, 2011
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Zhang, whose works were repeatedly staged at spring festival evening parties and other entertainment programs on China Central Television channels, was found to have given director Zhao An cash and audio-video materials valued at 610,000 yuan, then equivalent to 73,000 U.S. dollars, between 1994 and 2000.

Zang Tianshuo, a pop singer, received a six-year jail term in 2009 after his conviction for inciting a group to violence, which resulted in a street battle that left one person dead and three injured.

Zang, a household name in China, was one of China's first rock musicians. He has written many hit songs, such as "Friends," and a number of movie and advertising tunes. He was voted the most popular mainland singer/songwriter at the 9th Chinese Music Awards in 2003.

Ai's case is not unique in China, a country that has already built a modern legal system and handles large numbers of criminal cases daily, according to the Global Times, an affiliate newspaper of the People's Daily.

Ai's works, which include sculpture, photography, performance, and architecture, have gone on display in a number of foreign countries. Ai was also named a consultant to the design of the Beijing National Stadium, widely known as the Bird's Nest, for the 2008 Olympic Games.

However, participants in Chinese artistic circles often evaluate Ai's achievements as third rate. Some people said he was an "amateur artist", and his works "just look like artistic items." Many believed that Ai was far from reaching the level of reverence and respect given to his late father, Ai Qing.

The senior Ai was a French-educated leftist intellectual who went to jail for opposing the ruling Kuomintang Party in the 1930s. Ai wrote a number of well-received patriotic poems during the war before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Ai Qing's best known poems include "I Love This Land" and "Da Yan River -- My Wet-nurse." He was awarded the title of "Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters" in France in 1985.

Media reports dubbed Ai Weiwei "Ai Qing's rebellious son" for the junior Ai's different take on arts and his somewhat offbeat lifestyle.

"He (the senior Ai) once told me that his generation of intellectuals went to France thinking about what they could do for China. I scorned the idea and said 'I am not your generation,'" Ai Weiwei told Southern Weekly newspaper in an interview in 2009.

The interview, widely circulated on the Internet, disclosed details of Ai Weiwei's 12 years of living in New York from 1983 when he left without finishing his studies at the elite Beijing Film Institute.

Ai said that he was deeply involved in East New York's then crime-laden communities and was enchanted by going to rallies, protests and confrontations on various causes.

"I am addicted to being threatened. When the power pays attention to you, you feel like you are being recognized," Ai told the paper.

Ai's erratic behavior also confused many of his friends and acquaintances.

In his memoir, Feng Xiaogang, China's famous movie director, recalled the dangerously exciting moments he shared with Ai in the States in the early 1990s, including purposely trying to cause a highway car crash.

"Ai filled my life with wildness, mounting the urge to break the system. If I was not cautious in nature, the consequence would be hard to imagine," Feng said.

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