April 29, 2011 / 4:40 AM / in 8 years

China says Ai case nothing to do with freedom of expression

BEIJING (Reuters) - The case of detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has nothing to do with freedom of expression and the art scene in China is thriving, the country’s embassy in London wrote in a letter to a state-run newspaper on Friday.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses for a photograph with his new installation entitled 'Sunflower Seeds', at its unveiling in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern gallery, in London October 11, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Ai was detained at Beijing airport on April 3 and is now being investigated on suspicion of economic crimes.

His detention has prompted heavy criticism in the West, with U.S. officials raising the case in human rights talks in Beijing this week.

“The Ai Weiwei case, in essence, is not a human rights matter, nor is it about freedom of speech. No one is above the law. Just like in other countries, acts of violations of the law will be dealt with by the law,” the embassy wrote in the letter, carried in the English-language China Daily.

“Art is thriving in China. One can find art in all its forms and genres in China, from classical to post-modern, from Chinese to Western, from realism to abstract art,” it wrote.

The Chinese authorities have given few details of what exactly Ai is being investigated for.

Earlier this month, a Hong Kong newspaper under Beijing control said police had firm evidence he avoided tax.

In a sign of the sensitivity for Beijing, a Hong Kong-based rights group said on Thursday that a Chinese rock musician had been briefly detained by police after voicing support for Ai.

“It is natural for China and Western countries to see human rights and democracy differently given their different historical and cultural traditions and national circumstances,” the letter said.

“China is not the former Soviet Union. China has no need for ‘lecturers’, who cling to the Cold War mentality and follow double standards in their preachings.”

The China Daily said the letter had been written in response to an article in a British newspaper written by author Salman Rushdie calling on China to set Ai free.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard, editing by Jonathan Thatcher

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