Exiled Chinese artist Ai Weiwei: ‘Censorship in the West is exactly the same as Mao’s

The exiled Chinese artist spoke to Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips about the cancellation of his exhibition by a gallery in London.

Political censorship in the West today is “exactly the same” as it was in China under Chairman Mao, exiled artist Ai Weiwei has told Sky News.

The 66-year-old dissident told Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips that “society becomes so timid, to really avoid any kind of questioning or argument”.

He was responding to a question regarding the cancellation of his exhibition by the Lisson Gallery in London in November following social media posts regarding the Israel-Gaza conflict.

“I grew up within this heavy political censorship,” he said, referring to his own family’s exile when he was one year old.

“I realise now, today in the West, you are doing exactly the same,” the artist added.

Weiwei continued saying: “This is really like a cultural revolution, which is really trying to destroy anybody who has different attitudes, not even a clear opinion.

“So I think that this is such a pity, that it happened in the West, so broadly in universities, in media, in every location.

“In universities or political sector – everywhere – you cannot talk about the truth.”

Weiwei’s art often addresses political issues in China and he has frequently criticised Beijing’s record on human rights and democracy.

Asked if he believed Western artists were doing enough to defend freedom of expression, Weiwei described them as having been “corrupted by capitalism”.

“They are just seeking money and also to be famous,” he said.

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Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei poses at his exhibition “Making Sense” in London, 4 April 2023. Pic: AP

In 2011, Weiwei was arrested at Beijing Capital International Airport and detained for 81 days. He left China in 2015 and has not returned since.

His main residence is currently in Portugal, but he maintains a studio in Berlin and a property in the UK.

Weiwei said he “never regrets” speaking out.

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He said: “I’m defending a value which would profit and benefit everybody.

“My little experience does not really matter, but rather I somewhat have to speak out.

“An artist has the responsibility to do that.”

Weiwei’s graphic memoir, Zodiac, was published by Penguin Random House at the end of January.

Watch Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips at 8.30am to see Ai Weiwei’s full interview.

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