Chinese Police Beat, Detain Artist at Earthquake Trial

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2009 6:49 AM CDT
Artist Ai Weiwei, seen here in Beijing, said he and 11 others were detained in a hotel to prevent them from attending the trial of an activist investigating the deaths of thousands of schoolchildren   (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
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(Newser) – Ai Weiwei, China's leading artist and a prominent critic of the country's government, said yesterday he was beaten and detained when he tried to testify at a civil rights advocate's trial. Ai told the New York Times that dozens of police officers barged into his hotel room in Chengdu, the capital of earthquake-rocked Sichuan province. The artist, famous for his design of the Bird's Nest stadium has been leading efforts to account for the deaths of children in last year's quake.

Ai was trying to testify on behalf of Tan Zuoren, a well-known Chinese writer on trial for subversion, presumably because he pushed for an investigation into the shoddy construction of schoolhouses in Sichuan that left thousands of children dead. The writer's lawyer said that the court refused to hear any witnesses on his behalf yesterday. "Unless this is an extremely rare case," the lawyer added, "Tan will be found guilty."