Chen Guangchen to Ai Weiwei: 6 famous dissidents in China

The surprising escape of a blind legal activist from house arrest is buoying China's embattled dissident community, even as the government cracks down on those who helped him.

2. Ai Weiwei

David Gray/Reuters
Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei walks out of his studio in Beijing, in this November 15, 2011 file photo.

Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist, is internationally renowned for his artwork and his public criticism of the Chinese government. He was detained with no charge on April 3, 2011, 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 works 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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