SPIEGEL Interview with Chinese Artist Ai WeiWei: 'The Olympics Are a Propaganda Show'
SPIEGEL speaks with Beijing-based artist and Olympics critic Ai Weiwei, 50, about the attempts by the Chinese leadership to exploit the Olympics for their own purposes.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at his home in Beijing.
SPIEGEL: When the games were awarded to Beijing, many people hoped that China would also open up politically. Were you one of them?
Ai: China wants to be part of the world and to share its values. This is an important step for a society that has isolated itself for so long. That's why we were optimistic. By now, it has become clear to me that this hope of liberalization cannot be fulfilled.
SPIEGEL: Why not?
Ai: The system won't allow it. The party officials are using this opportunity to repair streets, build houses and clean up neighborhoods. Corruption is flourishing in the process. But people no longer have any confidence in this system and are no longer enthusiastic about it. No autocracy can lead people to believe that they are living in harmony and happiness. The games are a propaganda show, a giant masked ball. The outcome will be endless nonsense and boredom.
SPIEGEL: Were there consequences to your critical statements on the Internet?
Ai: The Internet is the best thing that could have happened to China. The Internet police ordered the provider sina.com to delete certain articles I had written. When I threatened to cancel my blogs, the articles remained online. But now many of my friends are warning me, telling me that I'm stupid and that they'll come to get me one day.
SPIEGEL: Will they?
Ai: I have no idea, and I don't care. I don't look into the future. I want to say what I have to say, and say it now.
SPIEGEL: Other critics of the Olympics have been arrested. Why haven't you?
SPIEGEL: Your father was a famous poet.
Ai: But he too was banned for many years and was not permitted to write. Society has developed, and the situation isn't nearly as bad as it was in the past. A few years ago, I would certainly have ended up in prison.
Interview conducted by Andreas Lorenz
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