High profile Chinese Dissident, Ai Weiwei has described his conditions in prison after he was jailed on vague charges following public criticism of the Chinese Government.
Ai describes in an intereview how he was kept in isolation with not even the guards speaking to him, he was denied any reading material and subjected to prolonged interogation.
Speaking to Newsweek, Ai, said he would have prefered beatings to isolation because at least that involved human contact.
Below is an extract of the article for the full version click on the link.
Seven months ago, Chinese police detained the country’s most prominent artist, Ai Weiwei, at the airport and drove him to a hidden location. It was the beginning of a two-and-a-half-month nightmare for the architect and sculptor, a former darling of the Communist Party turned outspoken government critic. Ai was held on vague -charges of economic crimes, kept in isolation, and submitted to Kafka-esque interrogations. Determined to maintain his wits, Ai tried to memorize every detail of his detention. “But after 20 days, my brain became completely empty,” he says, disclosing the fullest account yet of the grim conditions of his confinement. Cut off from the outside world, in a featureless cell, his mind began to panic. “I realized you need information to stay alive. When there’s no information, you’re already dead. It’s a very, very strong test—I think more severe than any physical punishment,” Ai says.
Desperate for interaction, Ai began to needle the guards to provoke a response. But they “just sat and stared at me with no expression. They were very young, and clean, and emotionless, like you were not there,” he says. With nothing to do, Ai paced back and forth in his cell, covering some 600 miles and losing almost 30 pounds during his 81 days of confinement. “All I wanted was a dictionary, even the simplest one.” Passing the time was “impossible,” he says. “I really wished someone could beat me. Because at least that’s human contact. Then you can see some anger. But to dismiss emotion, to be cut off from any reason, or anger, or fear, psychologically that’s very threatening.”
Since his release, Ai has been hesitant to go public with details about his imprisonment, other than to crack jokes about how it helped reduce his famous bulk. One friend says Ai is much more intense than before. Ai himself won’t elaborate on how the experience changed him, or on how it influenced his creative work, only saying, “I know what it’s like inside. It’s like a dark world.”