China blocks well-known artist from flight

China blocked one of its most famous contemporary artists from taking a flight to Hong Kong on Sunday and police later raided his Beijing studio, the man`s assistant said.

Last Updated: Apr 03, 2011, 16:31 PM IST

Beijing: China blocked one of its most famous contemporary artists from taking a flight to Hong Kong on Sunday and police later raided his Beijing studio, the man`s assistant said.

The artist, Ai Weiwei, is an outspoken government critic and has been barred from going abroad before.

China has launched a massive crackdown against lawyers, writers and activists, arresting and detaining dozens since February when online calls for protests similar to those in the Middle East and North Africa began to circulate.
The studio assistant, who asked not to be identified by name, said Ai was going through customs at the Beijing Capital International Airport early Sunday when two officials escorted him away, leaving a travelling companion to board the flight alone.

It was not clear whether Ai had been detained or why he was barred from taking the flight, the assistant said. Ai`s mobile phone could not be reached and airport police refused to comment.

Police later arrived at Ai`s studio in Beijing with a search warrant and took several staff members to a police station for questioning, said the assistant, who was among the group of people taken in by police. A man who answered the phone at the police station said he would check on the case, and then hung up the phone. Subsequent calls to the number rang unanswered.

Around two dozen uniformed and plainclothes police could be seen in and around Ai`s studio Sunday afternoon. A news agency videographer was told by police to stop filming and leave the area.

The studio assistant, who asked not to be identified by name, said Ai was going through customs at the Beijing Capital International Airport early Sunday when two officials escorted him away, leaving a travelling companion to board the flight alone.

It was not clear whether Ai had been detained or why he was barred from taking the flight, the assistant said. Ai`s mobile phone could not be reached and airport police refused to comment.

Police later arrived at Ai`s studio in Beijing with a search warrant and took several staff members to a police station for questioning, said the assistant, who was among the group of people taken in by police. A man who answered the phone at the police station said he would check on the case, and then hung up the phone. Subsequent calls to the number rang unanswered.

Around two dozen uniformed and plainclothes police could be seen in and around Ai`s studio Sunday afternoon. A news agency videographer was told by police to stop filming and leave the area.

Bureau Report