Daily Princetonian pieces

NEWS: Ai Weiwei’s planned visit to Princeton in jeopardy

Originally published at The Daily Princetonian on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012.

Chinese political critic and sculptor Ai Weiwei, who designed the sculptures outside Robertson Hall and plans to speak at the University next month, may be unable to leave his country because Chinese authorities are still holding his passport, the artist told The New York Times on Tuesday. On Tuesday night the University said it does not plan to intervene in the case.

The University had planned a number of events on Oct. 10, billed a “Day with Ai Weiwei,” involving the renowned artist and dissident, including a panel discussion on “Art in a Democratic Society” and a public conversation between Ai and Wilson School professor Bart Gellman on “Human Rights and Public Policy.”

Neither of these events has been canceled, Wilson School Associate Dean for Public and External Affairs Elisabeth Donahue said Tuesday afternoon, but the talk between Ai and Gellman will likely be rescheduled.

“We had said all along that the 4:30 [p.m.] public lecture was contingent on him getting his passport back,” Donahue said. “At some point we’ll have to make a decision, but we’re not there yet.”

The University will not be involved in any appeal measures on Ai’s behalf, Donahue added.

“We just extended an open invitation to somebody to come speak here,” she explained. “It would be wonderful if he can make it here, but any conversations about his passport are between him and his government.”

Ai and his work have gained notoriety for often being heavily critical of the Chinese Communist government. In 2009, he was beaten by police after speaking with an investigator looking into suspect construction practices by the government in the wake of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. A studio he opened in Shanghai was demolished by the government in January 2011. Later that spring he was put under three months of house arrest due to accusations of tax evasion.

Ai’s visit to the University was to be part of a North American tour, including visits to Washington, D.C., Harvard University and New York University.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department could not immediately be reached for comment.

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