Article Lead Image

Chinese dissident mocks Beijing after he finds listening device in his studio

He's not afraid of the Chinese government.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Oct 5, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 8:59 pm CDT

One of China’s most famous artists and government critics found a hidden listening device in the wall of his studio on Sunday.

For most people, that might inspire concern. For Ai Weiwei, who ascended to the top of the Chinese art world a decade ago and has since become a global icon of dissent, it was merely an opportunity to share anti-surveillance art on Instagram.

In the first photo, Ai laughs at his discovery.

“You hear me?” he asked while setting off a bucket of fireworks next to the listening device.

Ai became famous in 2008 when he designed the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics. Prior to and after that event, Ai was a high-profile critic of the Chinese government on issues of democracy and human rights. His punishments included months in jail without charges, the arrests of his family and associates, the shutdown of his Internet accounts, and the revocation of his passport.

Although Ai’s passport was recently returned and his online accounts are now active, it appears that someone still wants to hear what he has to say.

H/T Jacob Appelbaum | Photo via Abode of Chaos/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Share this article
*First Published: Oct 5, 2015, 9:07 am CDT