Five famous jailed dissidents in China: Ai Weiwei to Liu Xiaobo

Chinese authorities have cracked down on dissent in hopes of preventing a popular uprising in China like those that have erupted in the Middle East. Sweeping arrests of prominent dissidents have been part of the campaign and have earned the Chinese government widespread internal and international criticism. Who are some of these activists being put behind bars?

Ai Weiwei

Grace Liang/Reuters
Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei speaks during an interview at his studio in Beijing in this March 1, 2010 file photo.

Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist, is internationally renowned for his artwork and known worldwide for his public criticism of the Chinese government. He was detained with no charge on April 3 by Chinese authorities, and wasn’t seen or heard of for almost three months. Then he was suddenly released on bail June 22, 2011 because of his “good attitude in confessing,” according to Chinese state media. 

When Ai was released on bail, the government said he would remain under investigation on suspicion of unspecified economic crimes.

Mr. Ai was one of the designers of the Bird’s Nest stadium of Beijing Olympics fame and has exhibited his artwork, often laden with political messages, around the world.

One of his most iconic work is the collection of children’s backpacks he put on display in Munich following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The backpacks were arranged to spell out “She lived happily for seven years in the world,” a quote from a mother whose child died when her school collapsed during the earthquake. He also helped lead an investigation into the collapses of the government-built schools in which thousands of children died, to China's chagrin.

Today he is fighting tax evasion charges and under home watch in Beijing.

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