Artist and activist Ai Weiwei posted videos of himself on social media platform Instagram on Monday saying that he would like to “say goodbye to the past, study hard” and “laugh out loud” at the motherland. His words allude to a recent interview given by prominent lawyer Wang Yu, who said in an interview with The Paper that she would like to live well and “say goodbye to the past.”
Wang, a prominent human rights lawyer, was detained from July 9, 2015 in China’s “709 crackdown” on lawyers and activists, and was recently allowed to post bail. She gave an interview to Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily, Chinese outlet The Paper and HK-based iFeng media. In videos of the interview, she said that the Beijing Fengrui law firm, where she was a lawyer, was influenced by foreign forces and that her family was used to attack the Chinese government.
In another video, Ai repeats the words “[I] will not recognise, will not acknowledge, and will not accept.” The phrases allude to Wang’s rejection of the Ludovic Trarieux Prize for human rights, which was awarded to her in June. She told Oriental Daily in the interview that the committee wanted to use her to attack the government and that she does not recognise, acknowledge or accept the prize.
Ai said: “Don’t say anything more, I still do not recognise, do not acknowledge, do not accept. Do you understand what ‘do not recognise, do not acknowledge, and do not accept’ is?”
The same nine characters are a reminder of a phrase used in China’s rejection of an international tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea. Following the decision, the Chinese government proclaimed that they “do not accept, do not participate, and do not recognise” the ruling.
Burst out laughing
Ai Weiwei’s “burst out laughing” at the motherland also provoked several parodies. His imitators face the camera, like Ai, declare that they have decided to forget their pasts and “burst out laughing” at their motherland. This is a play on a phrase that Wang Yu used. In her interview, she said that she wants her son to “serve the country.” The Chinese word for “to serve” sounds exactly the same as the word for “to burst out laughing.”
— 艾未未 Ai Weiwei (@aiww) August 1, 2016
Ai also posted a video of his son, Ai Lao, saying the same phrase. He said that he would “study hard and laugh out loud at the motherland” after he’s done watching television. “Study hard” is a reference to a Communist Party slogan urging young people to emulate President Xi Jinping – a play on the Chinese word for “study,” which sounds like Xi’s name.
The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said in a statement: “despite the claim that Wang Yu has been “released on bail”, the Concern Group strongly doubts if she is genuinely set free. We hence caution the public and the international community [not] to take Wang Yu’s release at its face value.”