China's Dissident Artists

An investigation by Martin Boudot and Leona Liu
on an original idea of Paul Moreira

In China, a handful of artists are standing up to the regime, openly criticizing the government and finding ways around censorship to raise public awareness. In a country where the press is state-controlled, they have become the voice of free speech. And a headache for the Chinese government.

But their subversive actions can be dangerous. In the past two years, nearly 200 dissident artists have been imprisoned in China. Those who are still out face constant scrutiny and live in fear.

The most famous dissident artist is Time magazine’s man of the year 2011: Ai Weiwei. After spending almost 3 months in a secret prison, he is now under house arrest and can’t leave the country. He is also facing tax fraud charges.

Wu Yuren, another dissident artist, was jailed for a year after he protested against the destruction of his workshop.

We meet today’s most rebellious artists who defend the freedom of speech through their art. Against a powerful and determined enemy.

Ministry of culture agents always sneak in exhibition previews. And if judged controversial, exhibitions are closed down. Sometimes, artists – such as Weiwei – are “invited for tea” by agents who “friendly” advise them to stop their subversive activities in their very best interest.

This prolific artistic movement is also threatening China’s contemporary art growing profits. A very lucrative national maket.

This investigation shows the dissident artists’ undercover techniques, clandestine workshops and exhibitions. How they keep defying the government’s repression and hope to change attitudes and reality with their art.


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