Wall of silence

Nearly a month after he was grabbed at the Beijing airport, internationally recognized Chinese artist Ai Weiwei remains missing, and any facts about his presumed detention remain absent.

China has said only that Ai is being investigated for “economic crimes.” His family has not been notified of his detention or whereabouts and he’s not been allowed to see lawyers. In a new essay, a leading scholar on China’s legal system gives a grim blow-by-blow of the situation and why it matters.

Jerome Cohen, a New York University law professor who has studied China’s legal system for decades, describes in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post how China’s handling of Ai’s case flies in the face of laws and precedents. The situation is bleak not just for Ai, his family and associates, but for China’s own progress toward legitimate rule by law. Cohen's full essay appears online at NYU's School of Law website.

In closing, Cohen asks, “If a famous figure like Ai Weiwei can be so blatantly abused in the glare of publicity, what protections do ordinary Chinese citizens receive from their police?”