“The controls are very strong,” Ai told Reuters by telephone. “They (the government) are very insecure, they are not ready for any kind of change.”
Yesterday, Twitter announced that it will start censoring tweets in certain countries as a concession to governments as the service expands globally. Some, including Ai Weiwei, are not happy.
BEIJING — When Ai Weiwei’s assistant, Beijing artist Zhao Zhao, was brought in for questioning recently, the supposed charges were simple: distribution of pornography. The image in question was “One Tiger, Eight Breasts,” a shot of Ai with four young women, all of them naked. I first saw the photo in August 2010, when he tweeted a link to it and said “Trusting each other fully,” though the link to the image no longer works.
MANILA, PHILIPPINES — What has the response to Ai Weiwei’s tax case been like in China? We’ve seen the thrilling surge of netizens lending over a million dollars to the artist, and he recently made a deposit while he contests the bill. The artist has returned to Twitter, posting actively once more. Many reports have emphasized that Ai’s name is blocked on searches on Sina Weibo, but, as with the Wenzhou train collision last year, netizens are using images to circumvent censorship and show their support.
Just a few days after I wrote posts on the state of cosplay in China and the street art-like responses to the Wenzhou train collision on Sina Weibo, I found this image circulating around Weibo. What’s striking about it is how quickly it leapt from the online world into the offline world. I’m used to to thinking of Internet memes, political or not, as restricted to online space.
A deadly train accident in China becomes a source of social media street art on the highly censored Chinese microblogging site, Sina Weibo.
Is it time for the Western art world to join Chinese social media? That depends on your goals. “I don’t see any reason for anyone not directly involved in the Beijing/Shanghai art world to be on Weibo,” argued Robin Peckham. “It’s more about back-and-forth in-scene and doesn’t have much application in terms of PR and such, at least on the small scale of galleries and organizations.” Indeed, Chinese sites like Weibo and Douban, even as they gain more attention from the West, remain predominantly Chinese in both language and user base.
A few months ago, Tom Cruise made waves in both Chinese and Western media by announcing that he had joined Sina Weibo, the popular Chinese microblogging tool used by Chinese and, now, Western celebrities. “We’re having fun talking to you and our new friend at http://t.sina.com.cn/” his Chief Information Officer announced. Cruise is a special case, of course. But his popularity reflects something of an “Ashton moment” in terms of the attention Chinese social media have been received lately from the West. Sina’s strategy, which was to bring prominent public figures in both entertainment and politics to the service, has paid off.