CHINA’S FRANTIC campaign to crush the so-far nonexistent “jasmine revolution” has now swept up one of the country’s best-known artists. Ai Weiwei, a sculptor, filmmaker, architect and performance artist who helped design the “Bird’s Nest” stadium at the Beijing Olympics, was detained in the Beijing airport Sunday and had not been seen or heard from more than 24 hours later. Mr. Ai had been pushing the boundaries of free expression in China. On his Twitter account, which has more than 70,000 followers, he was keeping track of the lawyers and dissident intellectuals who have been arrested in a far-reaching crackdown during the past two months. Now he is one of them.
According to a count by the Chinese Human Rights Defenders group, 26 political suspects have been arrested in China since February, and the government has restricted the movements of 200 more. Another 30 have, like Mr. Ai, simply disappeared. They include a China-born Australian spy novelist and six lawyers from Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai who often take on human rights cases. Some of those who have surfaced in the legal system have been charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” the same offense for which Liu Xiaobo, the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, is serving an 11-year prison term.