“Economic Crimes”? How Dumb Do They Think We Are?

In my last post, I stated that China has the right to prosecute Ai for economic crimes if he’s committed them. And that’s certainly true. But it does gloss over the fact that Ai’s arrest probably had nothing to do with “economic crimes.” Reader Mitch sent me an email with some helpful links, which I’ll borrow here to illustrate the point.

When Ai was first arrested, no reason for his detention was announced. All we knew was that he had been taken away by police, and that on April 3rd, his art studio had been searched and his assistants were also detained.

Then, on April 6th, we got this from the Global Times, implying the reason for his arrest: “It was reported his departure procedures were incomplete.” The rest of the piece is full of negative language about Ai’s political views and activities. Guarded language, yes. But the Global Times is a State-run paper, and editorials on subjects like this one are definitely written only with the approval of high-level government figures.

Later that day comes the announcement that Ai is being investigated for “economic crimes.” (Note that there’s still no information about why they’re detaining Ai’s assistant, Wen Tao).

Then, on April 8th, the police finally conduct a thorough search of Ai’s finance office.

What’s important here is the timeline. If Ai is really being investigated for economic crimes, why did it take five days to tell us that? Why was it first suggested there was something wrong with his “departure procedures”? Why was his art studio searched days before his finance office, which is where the evidence of his economic crimes would presumably be?

There are other questions, too: Why is Wen Tao still being held? Why were the other assistants released? And what kind of questions were the assistants asked when they were being held? Were they questions about economics or about politics?

To me, the most poignant bit of evidence is that they took so long to search Ai’s finance office. It indicates either that the search for “economic crimes” is something that occurred to the police after they arrested him (most likely), or that the police inexplicably couldn’t get a warrant for the finance office until a week after the arrest (highly unlikely, since they got a warrant for his studio quite quickly), or that they’re just really incompetent (unlikely).

You have to wonder who they’re trying to fool with this….

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0 thoughts on ““Economic Crimes”? How Dumb Do They Think We Are?”

  1. It also took them until just now to bother interrogating the studio’s accountant, who is now missing. Why was his two year-old son’s home a more urgent target for an “economic crime” investigation than his accountant and his finance office?

    Where is Ai Weiwei? Where is Wen Tao? It is a violation of Chinese and international law to keep this information from their families.

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  2. I fear that at some stage the authorities will decide that imprisonment on these trumped-up incitement and economic crimes charges is not enough of a deterrent to dissent, and treason/espionage charges will be sought so that they can execute.

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  3. I guess it’s also worth saying: once again the true audience for this is not people like you and me, who are reasonably familiar with Ai Weiwei, but the general populace who know little of him, and will not want to know more once they hear that he is being investigated for economic crimes. Corruption investigations are something the Chinese people are quite familiar with.

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  4. During the abortive Beijing Spring of the late 1990s, a number of pro-Democracy activists conveniently had prostitutes sent to their rooms under the watchful eye of police. In one case an impotent , severely diabetic fellow was set up for consorting with a hooker.

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  5. I agree with Custer’s other comment that the Chinese government should hire better PR or don’t even bother to care about the Western media.

    Most of the Chinese activists which the Western press put on pedestals are already completely unknown to the Chinese population anyway. There is no point to put them in jail on trumped up charges because doing so will only guarantee that these activists will grab international headlines. If the goal is to minimize these activists influence then what the Chinese government is doing is completely counter productive.

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  6. Lolz,

    I would agree, China is just more reacting to a response. People like Ai Weiwei should’ve stayed away from the foreign press about his cause about corruption in the Chinese government. There are numerous interviews of him with establishments like bloomberg, pbs, and the newyorker. When China didn’t go around cracking down on these dissidents between 1978 to 1989, it caused that June incident. So many of these hardline leaders in Beijing rather to be portrayed as the boogeyman better than some remote chance there’s going to be another revolution and these leaders will be thrown out of power. China always plays this ‘foreign interference’ trump card and in Ai Weiwei’s case is no different.

    I think it is sad. I agree that the Chinese government could’ve been better not on cracking down on these incidents. But between being ruled by the current elite in Beijing or be another Vassal state of the West, I think most Chinese had already made their choice.

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  7. The charge of “economic crimes” is a handy tool in the arsenal of a number of authoritarian states to use against people who happen to run afoul of the government.

    It’s a useful ruse, because:
    (a) it allows the government to endlessly deny human rights abuse allegations from the outside world and

    b) most people in authoritarian countries have such little access to differing voices and/or training in critical thinking skills, that they will either be more likely to accept it as fact, or else simply ignore it as part of the government’s endless stream of information of unverifiable veracity. Lastly, it also sends a warning to any citizens who see through the deceit: don’t mess with us, or this could happen to you.

    In short, the charge of economic crimes is not necessarily only about trying to seriously fool anyone (although some are), but rather simply a tool with a variety of handy uses for the preservation of the rule of the elite.

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  8. The proper question here is “How dumb do they think the Chinese people are?” and we have a few reliable examples even on this thread. Nationalism is the opiate of the masses now.

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  9. News reports are emerging on the possible details of those economic crimes. I read a HK report but didn’t pay close attention but it was something about artifacts of lotus or whatever.

    If you are interested perhaps you can google them. If you say “I don’t wanna know; it’s all a lie” then perhaps it says something about you.

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  10. Keisat: The latest thing I’ve seen was that article accusing him of stealing an idea from a Chinese art prof for one of his exhibits (prof later denied Ai stole his idea, though).

    But other than that I haven’t seen anything, and I just Googled for new news using a couple different terms and didn’t see anything like what you’re talking about (or anything new at all, really). Feel free to send a link though.

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  11. This is a joke right? There are business leaders in China for major corporations committing ACTUAL economic crimes and their impact is much greater.. If Ai is guilty then sure punish him but what economic crimes can he possibly be guilty for..?

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  12. Of course Ai Weiwei is guilty of the economic crimes with which he is charged. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been arrested. This is the law in China and we all know that the law in China is always followed to the very letter. There are obviously no political reasons why Ai Weiwei was arrested because China has no political prisoners. Just like China has no prostitution, gay people, or racial unrest. It’s all a lie perpetrated by the imperialist Western media. Due to Mr. Wei’s egregious economic malfeasance, he has been rightly disappeared in accordance with Chinese law and society is now much more harmonious.

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  13. “But between being ruled by the current elite in Beijing or be another Vassal state of the West, I think most Chinese had already made their choice.”

    are you the same guy that always talks about the NED, or is that someone else? i get my beijing apologists confused more often than i should.

    anyway “either authoritarian state or western vassal” is the goofiest damn strawman i’ve ever heard, and I have no idea who you’re trying to fool with it. do you think that anyone reading this article will see your comment and say ‘yep, the police just have to disappear hundreds of people… that’s the only thing that stands between us and western vassaldom’???

    to misquote that movie, i have to say: i’m not even mad about how wrong your position is, i’m just impressed. to have spent so long looking at china and come to such a bizarre conclusion… incredible.

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  14. J,

    Oh geez. Based on US’ ‘stellar’ track record in Bosnia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, and in many South American, African countries and now Libya on proving again and again on how great Western Democracy worked there, I always wonder why the Chinese just don’t get it. Did I also mention about how Western Democracy worked so well in China 100 years ago during the opium wars?

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  15. 調查中還發現艾未未涉嫌重婚罪和網絡傳播淫穢物品罪。根據調查,艾未未和一年輕女子生有一個兩歲的兒子,而他與妻子在民政部門的登記仍是夫妻。

    Uh, knocking up another woman while married may be despicable (it doesn’t seem to be a secret, though, so maybe this is an arrangement with his wife that’s odd but nobody’s business) but it does not a bigamist make, unless there’s some subtlety of Chinese law that I’m unaware of. Still, is prosecuting people for having mistresses really somewhere the authorities want to go?

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  16. “Still, is prosecuting people for having mistresses really somewhere the authorities want to go?”

    More like tax evasion and destroying evidence…

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  17. “I wonder how many people in China with serious money are doing every little thing by the book.”

    It’s the same everywhere, not just in China, every rich guy does it. But not everyone is dumb enough to challenge the government.

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  18. @ pug_ster

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