Despite a ban on giving interviews or discussing his detention by authorities earlier this year, Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has spoken out again.
This time, Ai has written an impassioned article in Newsweek Magazine about Beijing, describing the story simply as “a piece about the place I live in.”
But it’s so much more than that, and it marks a change in tone from Ai’s previous pieces. In the article, Ai accuses officials of “deny[ing] us basic rights,” compares migrant workers to slaves, and describes Beijing as “a city of violence.”
Ai, an outspoken critic of the government, doesn’t specifically mention his 81-day detention, but writes about how people held in detention in China “become like mad” and “truly believe [captors] can do anything to [them].”
When Ai was first released, his public statements were innocuous, such as his greetings on the social networking site Google Plus in July: “I'm here, greetings,” he wrote, and then: “Here's proof of life.”
By early August, Ai had spoken out again, this time in a serious but uncritical interview with the Global Times, in which he said had never called for a change to the “form” of China's government but would continue to demand reforms.
In a series of tweets that same week, Ai grew more critical, denouncing the treatment of colleagues who had been detained with him and expressing his support for two other jailed dissidents.
The Newsweek article shows a new and more despondent Ai, who compares his own mental state to that of the desperate, hopeless citizens of Beijing.
“I see people on public buses, and I see their eyes, and I see they hold no hope... you don’t see yourself as part of the city—there are no places that you relate to, that you love to go,” he writes. “Cities really are mental conditions. Beijing is a nightmare. A constant nightmare.”