Think of it as the anti-state visit. Outspoken Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei recently posted a selfie with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is still cooped up in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. Both are giving the finger to the camera. The image also appeared on the WikiLeaks Twitter account.
Ai was in London this week to open a significant retrospective of his work at the Royal Academy of Arts. Ever since Chinese authorities returned his passport to him in July, he has been making use of his newly won freedom, spending much of August in Berlin and now posting a slew of pictures of his travels on his Instagram account.
Assange, meanwhile, has spent more than three years within the confines of the Ecuadoran mission, where he claimed asylum. The Australian activist, who earned global fame with his organization's release of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, is wanted for questioning over sexual-assault allegations in Sweden. He fears he will be extradited to the United States.
The context of their meeting is unclear, but they are in some respects kindred spirits. Ai has in the past championed the importance of transparency and easier access of information for a nation, particularly in the aftermath of the deadly 2008 Sichuan earthquake, when Chinese authorities were accused of obscuring their culpability in the disaster.
Ai suffered beatings from police truncheons as a result, was detained for a number of months in 2011, and had his passport confiscated for four years. “Freedom is a struggle, it’s continuous, and it’s a result we may never really get,” Ai told The Washington Post's Emily Rauhala in July.
Assange may know the feeling.
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