Ai Weiwei, a vocal critic of the Chinese regime who is best known for designing Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium and the current ‘sunflower seed’ installation in London’s Tate Modern, was detained in Beijing yesterday and remains unreachable since being held by Chinese authorities at the capital’s airport.

VERHOFSTADT_90.jpgGuy Verhofstadt, ALDE group chairman said: “China’s arbitrary arrest and detention of a leading critic and internationally re-knowned artist, Ai Weiwei, is both unacceptable and unjustifiable. It should be condemned by all defenders of democracy and free speech. In times when the Communist Party of China is trying to develop dialogue with European political parties, I do not believe there can be anything to discuss as long as dissidents such as Ai Weiwei and Nobel Peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo, are threatened in this way. If Ai Weiwei is not released immediately, we must reconsider our participation at a planned common conference in Beijing next month and ask other political groups to do the same.”

MCMILLAN_90.jpgEdward McMillan-Scott, (LibDem, UK) Vice President of the European Parliament responsible for democracy and human rights will call in Strasbourg today for his immediate release and for the EU to suspend its human rights dialogue with China.
McMillan-Scott said: “MEPs should consider suspending the EU’s so-called human rights dialogue with China. In the 14 years of its existence it has yielded no tangible results and it provides a fig-leaf for the most arbitrary, brutal and murderous regime in world history. I led the calls for the dialogue to be set up, now I want it dismantled.” said McMillan-Scott, author of the 1996 report to MEPs on a “EU-China Strategy” which created the dialogue.

“Chinese authorities have detained, arrested or ‘disappeared’ dozens of the country’s most prominent activists from lawyers and human rights defenders to bloggers. In doing so China is in breach of its international human rights obligations. Ai Weiwei must be freed immediately and the international community must not remain passive to such arrests but swiftly step up the pressure for reform and protection for those speaking out in favour of democracy.”

watson290.jpgGraham Watson (UK, Lib Dem) Member of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China and appointed ALDE representative at the planned Beijing conference added:
“The Arab uprisings for democracy and political freedoms have frightened the Chinese regime into a preventive crack-down on vocal dissidents like Ai Weiwei. The EU not only needs to show determination to uphold its core values in its near neighbourhood but to actively defend them around the world, including more strategic and commercially significant countries like China. To do otherwise is to invite criticism of inconsistency and hypocrisy. This Parliament will not pull its punches when standing up for basic human rights – wherever they occur in the world.”