Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei reminds us how we often take our civil liberties for granted. Interviewed on Christiane Amanpour’s new show, he speaks eloquently about government oppression in his native China. A reminder that whether you’re sharing a quick 140-character Tweet, an innocuous blog post (like this one), or Googling your name on the Internet, folks in highly-censored nations like China don’t share this same freedom.
In fact, Google recently announced that it was moving its Chinese headquarters to Hong Kong in the face of continuing government censorship. Even corporations are choosing free expression over profit.
How exactly does the nation’s Communist government interfere in private lives?
“On one hand, the Prime Minister will recite my father’s poetry,” Weiwei says. “On the other hand, the police will follow me.”
Though he designed the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympics, he still suffered brutality and physical injury for his outspoken beliefs. According to CNN:
Ai has paid a heavy price for his dissent. He says he was beaten in a hotel room by Chinese police and later needed emergency brain surgery for injuries he suffered in the assault.
In this clip from Amanpour’s interview, Weiwei appears fearless in his public statements. There’s not a hint of trepidation or anger in his voice. Makes me wonder: If faced with the same oppression, would I be able to calmly defy the government’s wishes and speak truth to power?