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China puts Ai Weiwei, co-designer of Olympic 'Bird's Nest' stadium, under house arrest

Ai Weiwei, one of China's best-known artists who has become an increasingly vocal critic of the Chinese government, was about to leave for his Shanghai studio.

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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses with some seeds from his art installation 'Sunflower Seeds' in London, Monday, Oct. 11. Weiwei, who designed the Bird's Nest, China's 2008 Olympic stadium in Beijing, says he has been placed under house arrest.

Lennart Preiss/AP Photo

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One of China’s best-known artists and a constant thorn in the government’s side, Ai Weiwei, says he had been put under house arrest for the weekend.

Mr. Ai earned wide international recognition as a co-designer of the “Bird’s Nest” stadium used at the Beijing Olympics. He has become an increasingly vocal and active critic of the Chinese government in recent years.

In what he describes as a farcical series of visits by the police, Ai was told he would not be allowed to host a mass party he had planned to hold in Shanghai on Sunday as a protest against the authorities.

“They came at half past midnight and told me they did not wish me to go to Shanghai,” Ai said by telephone from his walled compound home on the outskirts of Beijing. “I said that I had already announced the party and that I could not not go.

“They suggested I should announce that I was under house arrest,” Ai says. “I told them I could not say that unless I was under house arrest.”

After three more visits and continued discussion on Friday morning, he says, “they told me at 1:30 this afternoon that I was under house arrest.”

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