Ai Weiwei is China’s best known artist and the sharpest thorn in the side of its government. He’s a humorous and clever digital dissident, whose installations, viral videos, and tweets mock Chinese censors, and have made him an international symbol for freedom.
After years of attempting to cozy up to him with bribes and favors, the Chinese government turned on Ai Weiwei, charging him with tax evasion and bulldozing his freshly built studio in Shanghai. Then, on April 3, 2011, he disappeared.
Late last week, an investigative report from Reuters’ Enterprise Team uncovered the details of a big money contract between the Chinese telecommunications equipment company ZTE and the Telecommunication Company of Iran that included technology that can be used to conduct surveillance and crack down on dissidents. The details of the deal revealed surprising end-runs being made by Iran around global sanctions.