“Listen, Chinese Government, Nudity is Not Pornography!” Under this rallying cry, dozens of Chinese Internet users have posted naked photos of themselves online.
 
The daring move came after the Beijing authorities opened an inquiry last Friday into whether photographs taken by one of artist Ai Weiwei’s assistants are “pornographic”. Online protesters immediately launched their nude self-portrait campaign to condemn this move, which they see as yet another attack on Ai Weiwei, the artist who rose to international notoriety for speaking out on human rights violations in China.
 
In the photo, taken a year ago, Ai Weiwei is seen posing nude with four women. Titled “One tiger, eight breasts”, the photo went unnoticed by Chinese authorities until last Thursday, when the photographer was questioned by the police. They accused him of having published “obscene” material on the Internet.
 
 
Asked about the definition of the term “obscene”, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Liu Weimin, dodged the question and indicated that Ai Weiwei was being investigated for other reasons.
 
In April, Ai Weiwei was arrested and charged with tax evasion, while being the “manager” of Beijing Fake Cultural Development, a company created by his wife. He was detained for two months and then released on bail in June for “good behaviour”.
 
However in November, he was ordered to pay 15 million yuan (€1.7 million) to the Chinese tax authorities within 15 days. The artist responded with the following statement: “We asked them where they got this number from; they were not able to provide us with a clear answer. If it is a tax problem, I will pay it. However, if it is not, I won’t pay anything.” A massive fundraiser was organised by 30,000 Internet users and members of the public to cover the legal fees of his campaign to inquire into the accusations. The artist says he plans to pay back every penny of the €752,000 that have been raised.
 
The 54-year-old artist is well known for his architectural contribution to the “Bird’s Nest”, the Olympic stadium in Beijing where the Olympic Games were held in 2008. He is also one of the over 300 intellectuals and activists who signed Charter 08, a petition calling for democratic change in China.

"This campaign has already become a work of art"

Zhang Zhen works in construction in Zhangzhou, in the eastern province of Fujian.
 
I decided to pose naked and post my photo on the Internet to support Ai Weiwei. I don’t see how this gesture could be judged ‘obscene’. It’s just a way of expressing my individual freedom.
 
I first heard about this campaign on [Chinese social networking site] Weibo. A lot of photographs were circulating online at the beginning, but they were quickly removed. The aim of the campaign is to show that nudity is not synonymous with pornography. This campaign’s use of photos is a very artistic approach to this issue.
 
Ai Weiwei is not guilty of anything. The actions that the authorities have taken against him are an act of political persecution.
 
 
Ai is a great man and has shown a great deal of courage. He has never abandoned his struggle in fear of being rejected or persecuted. When there was an earthquake in Sichuan in 2008 and thousands of students were buried in the rubble of their schools, it was Ai who fought to publish a list of the names of the victims. [After the earthquake, the artist launched his blog ‘The Sichuan Names Project’, whilst the authorities refused to release any statistics regarding the names of the victims]. He also supported the activist Tan Zuoren, who demanded an independent inquiry into the reasons for the earthquake’s very high death toll. [The activist blamed the poor quality of some of the buildings. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison for ‘inciting subversion’].
 
 
Last year, Ai Weiwei’s main artistic project was a giant bed of 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds [exhibited at the Tate Modern Gallery in London]. After this exhibition, he announced on Twitter that he wished to give these seeds away to people as gifts. I sent him an email and a little while later I received two porcelain grains in the post. So when he was accused of fraud by the tax authorities I sent him a small amount of money as a sign of solidarity.”
 
 
These photos were all posted on the site "Listen Chinese Government, Nudity is not Pornography".