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Two hours of freedom for Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei

For a moment, it seemed like the "skies [had] changed" in China. Then, Ai Weiwei's Weibo account disappeared. Again.


Kevin Morris


Posted on Mar 19, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 7:54 pm CDT

For a short time on Monday, Ai Weiwei was free.

“The moment has come. The skies have changed in China,” the Chinese dissident and artist told a Reuters reporter, shortly after discovering he was able to blog uncensored on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblog service.

Two hours and 10,000 fans later, Ai’s account had disappeared.

Ai, who designed the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing before disavowing it as “pretend smile,” is an outspoken critic of the communist regime. He was detained without charge in April 2011 as the Chinese government cracked down on dissidents in response to the Arab Spring. He was released after 81 days of confinement in June.

It’s not the first time Ai has disappeared from Weibo. He was first blocked in Nov. 2011, after he used it to crowd-source funds for a $2 million tax bill he received from the Chinese government. Ai maintains an active presence on Twitter, where he boasts more than 130,000 followers. (Twitter is blocked in mainland China).

The artist’s brief reincarnation on Weibo happened just days after the service launched its controversial real-name registration program, though there’s no apparent connection between the two events.

Ai collected 10,680 followers, or fans, as Weibo calls them, while his account was live Monday.

It has since been replace with this message: “Error: Invalid Weibo user.”

Image by Daquella manera

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*First Published: Mar 19, 2012, 12:09 pm CDT