Ai Weiwei and Joan Baez Get Amnesty International’s Top Human Rights Award

Amnesty International—a non-governmental and non-profit organization focused on human rights—has given its top 2015 human rights award to both Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei and American folk singer, Joan Baez.

Ai and Baez were both given the Ambassador of Conscience Award, a decoration that recognizes “those who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights, through their life and work,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Previous recipients of the prestigious award have included Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, South African former President Nelson Mandela, and Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Through his work Ai Weiwei reminds us that the right of every individual to express their self must be protected, not just for the sake of society, but also for art and humanity,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s Secretary General, said in a statement.

The activist Chinese artist has been an outspoken critic of China’s political landscape. Consequently, after serving an 81-day detention in 2011, he has had his passport stripped and has been banned from leaving China.

Of Baez, Shetty said,”With her mesmerizing voice and unwavering commitment to peaceful protest and human rights for all, Joan Baez has been formidable force for good over more than five decades.”

On May 21 in Berlin, the award will be presented at a ceremony, however given Ai’s passport situation, it is uncertain he will be able to personally collect it.

Although the artist cannot leave the country, he has been able to direct a movie and organize multiple exhibitions (see Exclusive Interview with Ai Weiwei on Working with Hollywood—Remotely, Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei Exhibition to Open in 2016, and Ai Weiwei Urges Visitors to Alcatraz Exhibition to Write to Political Prisoners).

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