Ai Weiwei Says Censorship in China Will Ultimately Fail

By: Qichen Zhang on 18 April 2012

After being released from retainment last year, Ai Weiwei has published an op-ed criticizing Internet censorship by the Chinese Communist Party. The Guardian UK published a commentary titled "China's censorship can never defeat the internet" last Sunday by Ai. In criticizing the Chinese government's ongoing crusade against Internet freedom, he referenced Cultural Revolution-era anecdotes:

But censorship by itself doesn't work. It is, as Mao said, about the pen and the gun. At midnight they can come into your room and take you away. They can put a black hood on you, take you to a secret place and interrogate you, trying to stop what you're doing. They threaten people, your family, saying: "Your children won't find jobs."

He went on to elaborate on how attempts of censorship would ultimately fail in China as more people become more creative on the Internet:

Censorship is saying: "I'm the one who says the last sentence. Whatever you say, the conclusion is mine." But the internet is like a tree that is growing. The people will always have the last word – even if someone has a very weak, quiet voice. Such power will collapse because of a whisper.

In his critique, Ai also blamed censorship for the lack of innovation in China. Because "the government computer has one button: delete," creativity has been dramatically stunted in the country, said Ai. As a result, the Chinese have never had choices in information and the potential to develop the "ideology, passion, and imagination" to invent something like the iPhone, which he uses as a paradigm of productive innovation.

Some bloggers and journalists have lauded Ai's words. Said a blogger on Social Media Max, "It’s easy to forget that Ai Weiwei is an artist, at times." Mark McDonald of the International Herald Tribune wrote in response to the occasional humorousness Ai injects into his analogies between Communist Party-imposed restrictions then and now--"Now Mr. Ai, whose impish sense of artistic humor should not be mistaken for a lack of political seriousness, has thrown down another challenge to the Chinese authorities." It's interesting to note that Ai wrote both critically and unflinchingly about the CCP's censorship in light of the crackdown on microblogging in the country after the Bo Xilai controversy. Moreover, Ai's probation from his arrest last year does not end until June 22, and it's expected that Chinese authorities would keep a close eye on him until then (and beyond).