Chinese artist, cultural icon, and increasingly important voice of political dissent Ai Weiwei was apprehended by Chinese authorities yesterday before boarding a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong. By all accounts Ai, whose work ranges from the famed Birds Nest stadium at the Beijing Olympics to the recent 100-million porcelain sunflower seed exhibit at the Tate Modern, has not been formally charged with anything. In fact, the Chinese government has yet to acknowledge that they have him in their possession.
But Ai remains missing, and his name has been scrubbed from popular Chinese blogs and news portals. The governments of France and Germany have called for his release, but every day that passes without word from his captors raises the likelihood that he'll be held indefinitely in extrajudicial custody.
Ai is just one of dozens of prominent intellectuals the Chinese government has silenced in recent weeks, though he's certainly among the most recognizable names in the group. And his detainment doesn't just deprive the world of one of its most forward-thinking artists; it deprives China of one of its most powerful, creative, and independent voices at a time when the country needs him most. [WSJ; Photo credit: Fock Strangmann/AP]