Beijing just doesn't care.
The Global Times, the English language mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, brushed aside worldwide outrage at Ai's detention and disappearance, dismissing him as a "maverick" who does things "others dare not do." In an editorial published online Wednesday, the paper basically told the world to shut up and mind its own business:
Ai Weiwei chooses to have a different attitude from ordinary people toward law. However, the law will not concede before 'mavericks' just because of the Western media's criticism.
Ai was arrested April 3 as he attempted to board a flight out of Beijing, and he hasn't been heard from since.
Although the star of the global art world has been harassed by Chinese authorities before—he's been arrested, his studio's been bulldozed, and his staff has been detained—Ai's wife said she fears for his safety this time, and his current disappearance appears more serious than past run-ins. She told The Telegraph:
They searched his studio and took discs and hard drives and all kinds of stuff, but the police haven't told us where he is or what they're after. There's no information about him.
Ai's forced disappearance comes amid a growing crackdown on dissent by authorities in Beijing who appear to have been spooked by unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. An online group that has been calling for a "Jasmine Revolution" in China spoke to the AP for the first time on Wednesday:
'People born in the late '80s and the '90s have basically decided that in their generation one-party rule cannot possibly outlive them, cannot possibly even continue in their lifetimes. This is for certain,' one member, a lean, soft-spoken 22-year-old computer science student who goes by the Internet alias 'Forest Intelligence' told The AP in an interview Sunday at a cafe in Seoul's trendy Samcheong-dong district.
Despite his disappearance, New York City arts officials and the group AW Asia announced that his next exihibition in NYC will go ahead as scheduled on May 2. Ai also has an extremely popular exhibition at London's Tate Modern that showcases a million tiny porcelain sunflower seeds spread across the floor of a gallery hall.
Online supporters have started using the phrase "Love The Future" 爱未来 to express their support for Ai (and evade China's internet censors). The Chinese characters 爱未来 look and sound a lot like Ai's name 艾未未.
China Digital Times has a great roundup of their favorite online shout-outs to the detained artist. They range from the emphatic (Justice doesn’t die; faith is forever. Love the future!) to the inquisitive (Have you loved the future today?).