This week’s letters – Week ending 10 April


The arrest of leading Chinese artist Ai Weiwei

The talented and therefore controversial Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei is currently being held in prison by the government in China having been pulled off a plane en route to Hong Kong.

Son of a leading party member, he helped design the Chinese ‘Bird Nest’ Olympic stadium and is the leading visual artist in China.  But he has also been a thorn in the flesh of the Chinese Government for some time because of his insistence on suggesting the need for greater democracy in China.

Fast forward to August of this year and jump locations to chic Edinburgh and we will be invited to view other forms of Chinese art, namely their traditional opera and ballet, courtesy of the Edinburgh Festival.

The two visiting troupes, the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe and the National Ballet of China, come to Edinburgh in August as major productions under the direct sponsorship (and control) of the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China.  If the Chinese Government wishes to arrest and lock up artists as powerful as Ai Weiwei then what are they doing to repress and control others?

At a time when the Chinese Government is arresting and suppressing leading artists, is it not inappropriate for the Edinburgh International Festival to be inviting state managed arts troupes from the same Chinese Government?

Just last week ‘the Man’ Bob Dylan was being allowed at last to perform in China, but was forced to leave out his two great anthems of liberation Times They Are a Changing and How Many Roads.

Do we stay silent and welcome the state performers from China?  Should we not send them home to think again?

Artists in China who wish to speak up as actors of conscience (or indeed consciousness) are, at first, often ignored, and then suppressed, intimidated and finally arrested.

Edinburgh International Festival may need to look again at the ‘power of love ‘emanating from the Peony Pavilion as performed by the National Ballet of China or ‘the gripping entertainment’ in the Revenge of Prince Zi Dan all of which must be state sanctioned prior to performance.

Wherever and whenever artists are imprisoned by their state for their vision and voice, Scotland needs to say ‘No!’  Even in Edinburgh.

Thom Cross,