‘Chair protest’ in Hong Kong for Ai Weiwei

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‘Chair protest’ in Hong Kong for Ai Weiwei

HONG KONG - Hong Kong pro-democracy supporters staged a “chair protest” on Monday calling for the release of prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in a rally held on the eve of his one-month detention.

Ai, a harsh critic of China’s Communist Party, was taken into custody in Beijing on April 3 for unspecified “economic crimes,” sparking worldwide condemnation.

Inspired by “Fairytale,” one of Ai’s installations, dozens of supporters brought chairs to Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to form the Chinese character for “prison” and carried placards railing against China’s one-party rule.

“Ai Weiwei has been detained for nearly a month now and his whereabouts remain unknown,” said Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic and Democratic Movements in China, which led the protest, and a prominent lawmaker. “There are many others activists who have also been detained, we want to end this one-party rule.”

In his 2007 installation “Fairytale,” one of Ai’s largest-scale art works, the artist took 1,001 Ming and Qing Dynasty wooden chairs to an exhibition in Germany, along with 1,001 Chinese citizens aged between 2 and 70.

Ai is also co-director of Korea’s Gwangju Design Biennale 2011. The Gwangju Biennale Foundation of Korea expressed regret over the detention early last month.

The outspoken artist was arrested after Beijing launched its toughest crackdown on government critics in years after anonymous online appeals in February calling for weekly protests to emulate those in the Arab world.

Hong Kong, which maintains semi-autonomous status from China and enjoys civil liberties not seen on the mainland, has seen a series of protests calling for Ai’s release.

Graffiti in support of Ai has also appeared on the streets of the financial hub and activists last week projected Ai’s image onto a Hong Kong barracks and police headquarters.

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