'Ai Can't Be Here': Rescuing Ai Wei Wei

Ai Wei Wei’s battle against the Chinese government isn’t over. Following his suspicious abduction and 81-day incarceration by authorities in 2011 for speaking out against the government, Ai Wei Wei was released and put on a very short leash; he was placed under 24 hour surveillance and had his passport confiscated. The iconic artist has plead for his passport a myriad of times to no avail, so now he’s trying a new approach: the power of people.

While not initiated by him, the campaign project Ai Can’t Be Here is asking for Ai’s passport back and counting on the viral power of social media to gain enough strength to be able to do something about the repressive conditions by which he is being held. The man behind the project, Zhao, writes, "Every photo you upload is a piece of protest art. Like all protest art, your photo will have its own energy. And energy can change things."

The clever slogan for the campaign, “if #AiCantBeHere 爱 (Chinese for ‘love’) can’t be here,” plays up the artist’s name and not just in the obvious way – the character for love is pronounced “ai.” Ai, on his part, released a video in March in which he asks the Chinese government to give him back his passport or at least to explain why they took it and won’t give it back. The campaign is simple – by spreading the #AiCantBeHere slogan via any and every means of social media hopefully change can occur. Here’s hoping Ai finds freedom soon.

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