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FREEDOM ROCK! The Plight Of Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot

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3, 608 miles. That’s how far Moscow, Russia is from Beijing, China, but alas, the situation is the same. Over in Beijing, China, contemporary artist and political dissident, Ai Weiwei, was imprisoned on April 3rd, 2011 and detained for 81 days after he was arrested at Beijing Airport as he was trying to catch a flight to Hong Kong and 50 state police raided his studio where they confiscated Weiwei’s laptops and the hard drive to his main computer. Also picked up the day of the raid were Ai’s wife, Lu Qing, as well as eight of Weiwei’s staff members. The government has stated that the arrest was because “his departure procedures were incomplete”, later, changing that charge to tax evasion. On April 9th, 2011, three days after Weiwei’s arrest, Ai’s accountant and studio partner, Liu Zhenggang, as well as his driver, Zhang Jingsong, had disappeared. The truth of the matter is that over the years, Ai Weiwei has been pubicly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on human rights, or lack thereof, and democracy in general.

…The government has stated that the arrest was because “his departure procedures were incomplete”, later, changing that charge to tax evasion.

Not one to lay down and take it, even after 81 days of incarceration, Ai Weiwei has released a heavy metal single called “Dumbass“. In the music video for the song, Ai Weiwei visually recounts the atrocities he faced during those 81 days (the music video has already been banned in China). A lifelong outspoken critic of the Chinese government, Ai Weiwei has uncovered government corruption and political cover-ups in the past.

In November 2010, Ai Weiwei’s newly built was ordered demolished by the state police. It would be one thing if the studio was condemned for being unsafe, but this was a new studio in a flourishing Shanghai cultural space situated around other studios. Ai Weiwei’s was the only studio demolished. The excuse the government gave for its demolishment was that Weiwei had the studio built illegally.

On February 21, 2012, 3, 608 miles away from Beijing, China, in Moscow, Russia, two members of the feminist/protest punk group, Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were arrested by Russian state police after five members of Pussy Riot (there are 11 members total) staged an impromptu performance inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ The Savior. Pussy Riot have been known to stage random shows at odd locations in the past and this time was no different. Pussy Riots songs center themselves around criticizing the government of Vladimir Putin. The group have publicly labeled Putin “a dictator” and have gone on to link Putin and the cathedral to be in corruptive cahoots with each other.

The group have publicly labeled Putin “a dictator” and have gone on to link Putin and the cathedral to be in corruptive cahoots with each other.

On May 20th of this year, Maria Alyokhina started a hunger strike to protest not being allowed to be present during her trial hearing. Since she was not allowed access to her own hearing, Alyokhina barred her attorney from speaking on her behalf. On May 24, Alyokhina was denied parole. Earlier in the month, Nadezha Tolokonnikova was also denied parole. She was also not allowed to be present at her own trial. The court claims that the women were denied access to their own respective hearings because the defendants have had consistent run-ins with the law. Basically these ladies have been branded a menace to society.

Maria Alyokhina started a hunger strike to protest not being allowed to be present during her trial hearing.

Musicians like Sir Paul McCartney, have come out in support of the imprisoned women. What is going on when freedom of speech and expression is a fantasy? Pussy Riot and Ai Weiwei are just two examples of the injustice that exists out there in the world. Its cases such as these that make me thankful that I live where I do. If tomorrow the United States government suddenly became intolerant of outspoken people, then believe me, I’d be hauled away for expressing myself so freely. This blog you’re currently reading would be enough to bring me in front of a tribunal, where I would quickly be labeled an enemy of the state and brought in front of the firing squad where I would be shot on the spot. Of course that hasn’t happened, because as of now, I still have my freedoms firmly in tact.

I’ve always understood that there are countries in the world that are slow to progress, or in some cases, are completely stalled on the concept of progression. It’s not something I will ever completely understand because my freedom to express myself has never been jeopardized (well, the Patriot Act of 2001 did scare the shit out of me). Now imagine living some place where the freedom of expression has never been a fucking option. You can’t really miss something you never had, right? But even those living without such a luxury as the freedom to express oneself are not blind to the progress taking place in other corners of the world where such freedom is commonplace.

People like Ai Weiwei, Nadezhda, and Maria are martyrs to the cause of freedom. They are a beacon of hope that rebelliousness , especially when it’s coming from the place of championing expressive freedom will be the spark that ignites positive change. Freedom will never be a utopian idea as long as people like Ai Weiwei and the members of Pussy Riot actively exercise it regardless of their current circumstances.

There are those that already have such freedoms in place who can never understand what it’s like to live without.

Freedom will never be a utopian idea as long as people like Ai Weiwei and the members of Pussy Riot actively exercise it regardless of their current circumstances.

Take Lesley Stahl, reporter for 60 Minutes. For the March 24 edition of 60 Minutes, Ms. Stahl reported on the importance of Pussy Riot’s movement, but who ultimately metaphorically threw tar on said movement when she stated “I’m not an art critic, I’m not a music critic, it sounded a lot like noise to me.” The producers of 60 Minutes and Lesley Stahl found the story to be important enough to travel to personally interview Pussy Riot’s drummer who has been in hiding since the arrests. Why then, if Ms. Stahl, as one of the mouthpieces of 60 Minutes, would call a story important only to demean the entire movement by calling it “noise”? Does Lesley Stahl not realize that you dismiss a movement when you refer to it as noise? It’s not “noise”, bitch, it’s punk rock with a message. Lesley Stahl is not Pussy Riot’s people; Lesley Stahl is a ratings pandering puppet. That’s where the real importance begins and ends for people of her ilk.

We here at kilScene support freedom of speech and expression and urge all like minded people to support any cause that promotes free speech regardless of where that fight for freedom is being fought.

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