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ND Expert: “Embarrassing international pressure” factor in release of Ai Weiwei

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Lionel Jensen

After being apprehended by the Chinese government and detained for more than two months on charges of tax evasion, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has been released.

“I suspect that the condition of Ai’s diabetes, his resistance to confession, intense and embarrassing international pressure from capitalist and political institutions, as well as an ongoing struggle within the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party itself, all have contributed to this development,” says Lionel Jensen, associate professor of East Asian languages and cultures and concurrent associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame.

In early April of this year, just over four days after his sudden apprehension by China’s Public Security Bureau, the government initiated the public process of building a “case” against Ai by alluding to his “crimes.”

Best known as the designer of the “Bird’s Nest” Stadium of the 2008 Olympics, Ai is a renowned painter, sculptor, architect and activist. For the last 20 months, he helped to identify the names of every child killed in the collapse of the “tofu dregs schoolhouses” – shoddily constructed due to corruption – in the Wenchuan earthquake of May 2008. This past year he completed a memorial project, “Nian” (“Missing”), a 240-minute long MP3 reading of the thousands of names of those children killed. As a result, the Chinese government shut down his blog.

Media advisory: Professor Jensen is available for comment and can be reached at or His comments may be used in whole or in part.