China’s UK Ambassador Has Nothing But Contempt for Ai Weiwei’s Art

He was being interviewed about human rights in China.

Ai Weiwei with his installation Straight, Royal Academy of Arts, 2015. Photo: © Dave Parry Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts, London.

The Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom has expressed his dislike of Ai Weiwei’s art in a television interview yesterday, saying it is “not my taste.”

Liu Xiaoming told the BBC‘s Andrew Marr that he believed Ai was only famous because of his criticism of the Chinese government, and that there are many better artists from his home country than Ai, whom he referred to as a “so-called artist.”

But the interview didn’t focus solely on art. The ambassador was quizzed on China’s human rights record ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to London this week.

“There are so many talented Chinese artists, many much better than him, why is he so famous? Because he’s critical of the Chinese government!” Liu said.

“The reason he was under investigation was because of his economic crime. He was under suspicion of fraudulent accounting, destroying accounting documents,” the ambassador explained.

“Would the same artist be investigated with this criminal record in the UK?” He asked.

Accused of tax evasion Ai was apprehended at Beijing International airport in 2011 and detained by the Chinese state for 81 days. After four years under house arrest, the artist only got his passport back in July in time for his exhibition at London’s Royal Academy.

Detail of Ai Weiwei's S.A.C.R.E.D. (2012) at London's Royal Academy of Arts, 2015.Photo: Lorena Muñoz-Alonso

Detail of Ai Weiwei’s S.A.C.R.E.D. (2012) at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, 2015.
Photo: Lorena Muñoz-Alonso

Ai’s supporters interpreted the arrest as an attempt to silence the outspoken artist and vocal critic on the Chinese government’s position on human rights, democracy, and free speech.

The artist himself says that he was held without being formally charged or put on trial.

The ambassador stressed that “when you talk about human rights you don’t have to miss the big picture in China. I hope people realize how much progress China has made in the area of human rights.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping has cracked down on dissent in the arts Photo: Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping has cracked down on dissent in the arts
Photo: Reuters

While he made it clear that “we do not shy away from discussions about human rights,” he stressed said that the Xi’s UK visit would focus on “partnership” and “cooperation,” and that the “he’s not here for a debate about human rights.”

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