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Weiwei

‘China is very powerful, with a clear vision. But it’s a secret state’ – Ai Weiwei

The Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei (1957, Beijing) is one of the most influential and creative names in contemporary art.
In 2020 he was elected as the most famous artist by the international journal The Art Newspaper.

His father, Ai Quing (1910-1996) – writer and well-known poet – was in the 60s the object of purges against intellectuals and artists, that Mao declared counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution. 

Weiwei grew up in the far north-west of China, where he lived under harsh conditions, due to his father’s exile to a work camp in the Gobi desert. ‘The farthest place you can find on the map of China’, as he describes it himself.
Upon Mao’s death in 1976 the family returned to Beijing.

  


As an activist, he openly criticizes the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights.
He was arrested several times and detained in 2011 for 81 days without charge and had his passport confiscated.


After being allowed to leave China in 2015, he subsequently lived in Berlin, Cambridge (UK), and since this year in Portugal.
In Montemor-o-Novo to be precise, in the Alentejo province.


This year he opened his first solo exhibition in Portugal.
Rapture (meaning ecstasy but also abduction) – with 85 pieces his biggest ever – reveals work from the different phases in his life.

For example, photographs taken during the 80’s – when he still lived as an unknown artist in New York. A serpent made of backpacks, symbolizing the more than 5000 children killed in the 2008 earthquake in the Chinese province of Sichuan.


A set of boxes with three-dimensional scenes from the days the artist spent in prison in 2011 and his video film Coronation, about the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the city of Wuhan.


But also works created last year in Portugal with local craftsmen and materials. Such as Pendente, a 10-ton marble toilet paper roll – produced at B Stone – which the artist sees as a symbol of a world struggling to free itself from the pandemic.



Odisseia – the massive tile panel made at the Viúva Lamengo factory – representing the odyssey of refugees around the world and last but not least a statue of the artist himself – brainless and sitting on a chair to which he is handcuffed – made of cork in collaboration with the Corticeira Amorim company.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Weiwei declared that “The one-party system controls the army and the police, there is no freedom of expression and no independent judicial system. The CCP will rule China for a long time, even beyond our imagination.”

Rapture is to be seen until the 28th of November in the Cordoaria Nacional in Lisbon.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            (pic Lusolobo)







Undocumented

‘Only foreigners work here, he confesses. It’s hard work and poorly paid. Sixteen hours a day for the minimum wage. You keep going because they give you a contract, that is needed for a permit.’ Amit Kumar, originating from India is 32 years old and works since 2013 in Portugal. First in horticulture in the Algarve and after that in a restaurant in Belem. Although he is paying tax and social security, he runs the risk of being expelled as he can’t prove to have entered the country in a legal way. In 2017 he falls ill and has to be admitted to hospital for a week. Being unable to pay the bill, he asks his uncle in India for help. ‘I was supposed to support my family over there, not the other way around.’
When he returns to work, he discovers he is fired.

The ruling socialist party wants the government to speed up the legalization of undocumented immigrants, who have been working for more than a year and paid tax and social security. Even if they have entered the country illegally. The party invokes on Article 123 in the Aliens Act, which permits residency for foreigners on humanitarian grounds.

The reason for the amendment was the large-scale demonstration in May, when immigrants gathered before Parliament, expressing that they were treated like second-rank citizens, even though they paid tax and social insurance.

‘It concerns a group of approximately 30.000 people, who have work commitments but no rights whatsoever’, explains Flora Silva, president of the solidarity organization Olho Vivo (www.olho-vivo.org). ‘Most of them are from Lisbon but also from the Algarve, where many people from Nepal and Indonesia work in agriculture.

‘The law doesn’t promote the integration of immigrants, who work here for many years but are not treated as human beings’, says Timóteo Macedo, president of Solidaridade Imigrante (Solim). ‘Our Government argues, that we need more immigrants for our economy. Fine. They are already here, just come and see!’

Research by Solim in April showed that illegal immigrants pay on average 6 times more for a visit to the Emergency Department and 8 times more for a doctor’s consultation in Primary Health Care, than legal employees. ‘When undocumented workers pay their social security’, Macedo points out, ’there shouldn’t be any difference at all, isn’t it?’

Bom fim de semana            Enjoy the weekend                       (pic Público)

 


Detention

21 MarchInternational Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

It’s violence of a racist nature perpetrated into our prison system.’
– José Pureza, 
MP of the Left Bloc (BE)

‘Accusations of racism, xenophobia, and torture are a shame for our country.’
Carlos Peixoto, MP of the Social Democrats (PSD)

‘It’s a reality that exists, apartheid in our society.’
Isabel Moreira, MP of the Socialist Party (PS)

‘Police violence is serious but look, violence against the police also increased.’
Vânia da Silva, MP of the Christian Democrats (CDS)

Both left and right wing parties in Parliament are concerned about racism in the police force and violation of human rights in prisons. The reason is a recently published report of the European Committee against Torture, stating that police violence in Portugal – in particular against African descendants – is the highest in Western Europe.

The committee – that also visited the country in 2013 – emphasizes that the police violence at police stations has increased and that the situation in the overcrowded prisons of Caxias, Setubal, and Lisbon is ‘inhuman and degrading.’

Julia Kozma, lawyer and chairing the European delegation, points the finger towards the Ministry of Internal Affairs – responsible for the police and the security forces – and regrets its lack of ‘awareness’. The Ministry denies the accusations and declares that ‘all complaints about violent police conduct are investigated by the Internal General Inspectorate (IGAI) and immediately reported to the Public Prosecutor.’

The reality, however, is that only a very small number of the complaints are brought before court. ‘And that’s exactly the problem’, says Kozma. ‘There is a spirit of impunity and bureaucracy, whereby complaining doesn’t help. The inspection body (IGAI) needs more skills to conduct criminal investigations and more resources to act independently.’

Pedro Neto, the director of Amnesty International in Portugal, also believes that the IGAI – “the police of the police” – should become independent of the Ministry. ’One government department cannot control another state entity.’

In recent months the non-governmental organization SOS racism received an increasing number of grievances from inmates in the prison of Lisbon about racist provocations and intimidations. Peculiar was that all complaints came from African immigrants and that any registration on xenophobe or racist behavior from the guards and staff is lacking.

All hope is now pinned on the Minister of Justice, Francisca van Dunem. She announced recently not only to reduce the number of convicts in jail but also to improve the conditions in detention centers. Bias

Bom fim de semana            Have a nice weekend          [photo’s Público/Sapo]