Artist Ai Weiwei unfazed by China ending presidential term limits

SYDNEY (Reuters) - China's removal of presidential term limits, effectively letting President Xi Jinping hold office for life, will have no impact on its culture, artist Ai Weiwei said on Monday, as he unveiled a giant artwork in Sydney depicting asylum seekers.

Ai, one of China’s most high-profile artists and political activists, has become a vocal campaigner on migration as the number of people forced from their homes - largely by violence and war - has reached a record 65 million.

In Sydney, Ai presented his 60-metre (197-ft) -long inflatable raft, carrying about 300 oversized human figures, a day after China removed the term limits from its constitution, raising concerns about a return to strongman rule.

"China has always been emperor state," Ai, 60, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp in an interview.

"It doesn't matter if it has the title of communist, now capitalism. It's a fatalistic society, so (if) it changes leader or not change leader, the system and the culture always stay the same."

First designed for the National Gallery of Prague, Ai's "Law of the Journey" is made from the rubber used by vessels carrying refugees across the Mediterranean Sea.

Installed on Cockatoo Island, a former shipbuilding site, it will serve as the centerpiece of the Sydney Biennale, running from Friday to June 11.

Ai said the location was appropriate because of Australia's controversial policy of detaining unauthorized boat arrivals in camps in the Pacific island nation of Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

"Australia's refugee record is quite poor, internationally," he added.

"There's no excuse for any kind of policy (that) should not consider protecting basic human rights."

The artist, who helped design the stadium of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games but was arrested in 2011 following criticism of the ruling Chinese Comumunist Party, said he was not concerned the changes could bring a regime with "no end".

"People's lives (are) getting better," he said.

"You see so many youngsters study outside and I think that the Western idea to respect very basic human values has become more and more important for a society to maintain the competition."

Ai is set to speak on Thursday at the Australian launch of his asylum-seeker documentary, "Human Flow", at the Sydney Opera House.

Ai, who has lived in Berlin since 2015, said he wanted the film to make people see refugees in a different light, as they were victims of man-made problems.

(This story has been corrected to fix wording in quotes in paragraphs 4,5,12,13)

(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Related News

Australia, France and U.S. progress in Davis Cup

Feb 5, 2017

US-TENNIS-DAVIS:Australia, France and U.S. progress in Davis Cup

National Australia Bank first quarter earnings...

Feb 6, 2017

US-NAB-RESULTS:National Australia Bank first quarter earnings fall 1 percent as costs rise

Yen holds gains, European political risks...

Feb 7, 2017

US-GLOBAL-FOREX:Yen holds gains, European political risks generate safe-haven demand

Australia job adverts bounce back in January: ANZ

Feb 6, 2017

US-AUSTRALIA-ECONOMY-VACANCIES:Australia job adverts bounce back in January: ANZ

Wanted: high-tech grads to work with Aussie...

Feb 6, 2017

US-AUSTRALIA-AGRICULTURE-TECH:Wanted: high-tech grads to work with Aussie farmers

7 percent of Australian Catholic priests accused...

Feb 6, 2017

Officials investigating the abuse of children at institutions across Australia have revealed that...

Stock Markets

About Us

The Morning Herald is a fast news provider in the United States since 2005. Fiercely independent and armed with irreverent intelligence, there’s no other place to get your news other than The Morning Herald.

Contact us: sales[at]themorningherald.com

Subscribe Now!