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  • » 09/03/2011, 00.00

    CHINA

    In Beijing, migrant workers are treated like slaves, Ai Weiwei laments



    Under house arrest, the well-known dissident publishes an article on the situation of migrants in Beijing, where they have no rights. In his piece, he criticises China’s justice system, mentions attempts to force him to emigrate.
    Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – “Every year millions [of migrant workers] come to Beijing to build its bridges, roads, and houses”. Here, they become “Beijing's slaves”, paid low wages and with almost no rights, writes renowned artist Ai Weiwei who breaks his silence in an article published by the US-based Newsweek magazine.

    Ai was released by police in June after being held 81 days incommunicado. He was seized as part of a crackdown by Chinese police meant to stop the possible spread to China of the “Jasmine Revolution” that swept North Africa and the Arab world.

    He is now under house arrest after being charged with tax evasion. However, he has not given up his fight for human rights and continues to slam China’s justice system, government and corruption problem. Above all, he is particularly incensed by the denial of migrant rights.

    Migrants lack basic rights, including the right to decent housing, Ai notes. “They squat in illegal structures,” he writes, “which Beijing destroys as it keeps expanding. Who owns houses? Those who belong to the government, the coal bosses, the heads of big enterprises. They come to Beijing to give gifts - and the restaurants and karaoke parlours and saunas are very rich as a result."

    The dissident’s statement is important not only because of its content but also because under the terms of his house arrest, he cannot give interviews, meet foreigners, use the Internet or contact human rights lawyers.

    In his piece, Ai alluded to his time in detention, saying "the worst thing about Beijing is that you can never trust the judicial system". People can vanish, and when families cry out for their missing loved ones, “You can't get answers from the street communities or officials, or even at the highest levels, the court or the police or the head of the nation."

    Last but not least, he notes how strangers come up to him and pat him on the back, saying, “Weiwei, leave the nation, please” or "Live longer and watch them die.”

    In the past, he had rejected the idea of leaving China, but now he is wondering whether he should. His choice is “Either leave, or be patient and watch how they die. I really don't know what I'm going to do."
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    See also

    20/07/2012 CHINA
    Beijing court rejects Ai Weiwei appeal
    Appeal was presented to the court in May. Police bar the activist from hearing the delivery of the verdict. He must pay a fine of 2.2 million for tax evasion. Ai: "We will continue to appeal until we can, we have nothing to lose."

    11/10/2007 CHINA
    More dissidents arrested as CP congress approaches
    Rights activists and religious leaders “disappear” or are placed under house arrest. Beijing streets are crawling with police stopping anyone who appears to be a possible petitioner.

    01/02/2008 CHINA
    Hu Jia charged, petition calls on government to protect human rights
    Despite EU and US protests, the well-known Chinese activist is formally charged with inciting subversion against the state. More than 14,000 activists and dissidents call on the government to ratify the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    22/04/2011 CHINA – USA
    Ai Weiwei and the death of rule of law in China
    The great Chinese dissident recalls the beginning of arbitrary arrests (of which he was the first victim) and warns: the detention of intellectual figures is reminiscent of the first sad steps that led to Mao Zedong’s disastrous cultural revolution.

    19/11/2011 CHINA
    And now Ai Weiwei is under investigation for child pornography
    Charged over photographs on display for over a year on the internet. The investigations concerns anyone else involved in the production and publication of the photos, even the employees of Ai. The charges against the well-known artist multiply, since he began criticizing Beijing.



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