Chinese newspaper attacks West over detained artist «

    Chinese newspaper attacks West over detained artist

    BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese newspaper on Wednesday attacked Western governments for demanding the release of detained artist-activist Ai Weiwei, saying he had been testing the bounds of China’s laws and would pay a price. The editorial in the Global Times was the first time that state-controlled media have taken up the controversy over Ai, who was stopped on Sunday from boarding a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong and taken away by police. The move sparked condemnation from Western governments and Chinese human rights advocates who see the case as marking a deepening crackdown. Ai, 53, has not been in contact with his family since Sunday and his mobile phone remained off on Wednesday morning. There is little doubt that Ai, a combative critic of the ruling Communist Party and a well-known contemporary artist, has joined a list of dozens of dissidents and activists put in detention or informal custody recently. Officials and police have made no comment on his case. The Global Times said Western governments were using Ai’s case to attack China’s human rights record, even though they had no details about what may have happened to him or what laws he may have violated. Western critics were “vehemently launching critical attacks against China, and this is a hasty assault on China’s fundamental judicial sovereignty,” the newspaper said. The paper suggested that the burly, bearded Ai, who had a hand in designing the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had been testing the bounds of official tolerance. “Ai Weiwei himself probably understands that by doing whatever he pleases, and often daring to do what others dare not, while drawing together others like him, he often strays close to the red lines of Chinese law,” said the editorial. “So long as Ai Weiwei is constantly charging forward, it’s very likely that one day he will hit the boundary. History will render its own verdict on people like Ai Weiwei, and before then they may pay some price for their own special choices.” WESTERN BULLYING The editorial is not tantamount to an official reaction to the mounting criticism over Ai’s detention. But it gives some idea of how propaganda officials may want to handle a dispute which could turn into a diplomatic row. The paper’s message was that this was a case of Western bullying, not Chinese oppression. The United States, Britain, Germany and other governments have denounced Ai’s detention and China’s growing use of extra-judicial detentions against dissidents who the Communist Party fears could spread calls for protests inspired by Middle Eastern uprisings. The Global Times is a high-circulation daily that focuses on international affairs. It often publishes blunt commentaries that step beyond the bounds of more carefully controlled Party newspapers, while echoing pro-government positions. While dozens of activists have been released since February, dozens remain locked away. At least three have been formally arrested on broad subversion charges often used to jail dissidents. The daily said Ai’s prominence would make little difference. “The law will not stray off course or make concessions for some ’special persons’ because of criticism from the West,” it said. (Reporting by Chris Buckley, Editing by Ron Popeski)

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