Denmark’s culture minister snubs Ai Weiwei

Culture Minister Marianne Jelved did not meet with Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei as planned, leading him to say that Denmark "misunderstands China".

Denmark's culture minister snubs Ai Weiwei
A man sits in front of an creation named "Illumination" by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei during the media preview of Art Taipei. Photo: Pichi Chuang/Scanpix
Denmark’s culture minister Marianne Jelved was in China last month for what the Culture Ministry described as the “largest Danish cultural effort in China to date”. 
Although Jelved participated in over 60 arrangements while in China, she backed out of one high-profile meeting by cancelling plans to meet with China’s most famous international artist, Ai Weiwei. 
A meeting with the dissident artist was in the cards before Jelved left for Beijing, but she told Berlingske that she thought better of it once there. 
“When I was over there as an official guest with the Chinese government as a partner, it dawned on me that I didn’t care to take the initiative to meet with Ai Weiwei. The partnerships that I have in connection with the cultural exchange with China are something that I really value and that I want to build upon further and develop,” she said. 
Ai Weiwei, who is barred from leaving the country by the Chinese government, said he couldn’t understand why Jelved wouldn’t meet with him. 
“I would have very calmly participated so that people could see that it was an arrangement in which the intentions were on another level. When I’m invited, I always come. And there are never problems,” he told Berlingske. 
An outspoken critic of China’s position on human rights and democracy, Ai Weiwei said that he didn’t see any problems with Denmark’s cultural collaboration with China but that “it is also important to take responsibility”.
“A lot of countries try to do business with China, but they should also understand that the China that they are dealing with is not necessarily a reflection of the Chinese people’s opinions. China is not a democracy,” he told Berlingske. 
The activist added that he didn’t think that the Chinese authorities had pressured Jelved not to meet with him but rather that the Danish culture minister “handled the situation incorrectly” because the Danish delegation “misunderstands China”. 
Jelved also stressed that it was her own decision to skip a meeting with Ai Weiwei. Prior to her October 24-30 trip to China, she said in a press release that the goal of the cultural exchange was for “Danish and Chinese artists to meet so they can be inspired by, and learn from, one another.” 
Ai Weiwei is considered one of the most influential and subversive artists of his time, with art exhibitions all over the world, including at the Tate Modern in London, Jeu de Paume in Paris, and Martin Gropius in Berlin. Just last week, he provided two ice sculptures to mark the opening of the Stockholm Film Festival.  

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


China derides Copenhagen democracy meet as ‘political farce’

China on Tuesday blasted a democracy conference in Copenhagen attended by Taiwan's president and a Hong Kong activist alongside Danish government officials this week, qualifying it a "political farce".

China derides Copenhagen democracy meet as 'political farce'
Demonstrators gathered outside the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Tuesday. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Copenhagen Democracy Summit was held Monday and Tuesday in the Danish capital and organised by the Alliance of Democracies, an organisation targeted by Beijing sanctions in March and founded by former NATO boss Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

In addition to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod also participated in the forum by video link, which Beijing said violated “the one-China principle.”

“This summit is a political farce,” the Chinese embassy in Denmark wrote in a statement published on Tuesday. “Inviting those who advocate Taiwan and Hong Kong ‘independence’ to the meeting violates the one-China principle and interferes in China’s internal affairs,” it said.

“Some hypocritical western politicians are good at meddling in other countries’ internal affairs and creating divisions and confrontation in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. They are bound to fail,” it added.

At the conference on Monday, Kofod said it was “deplorable” that Beijing had imposed sanctions on 10 European individuals and organisations in response to EU sanctions on Xinjiang officials over their actions against the Uyghur Muslim minority.

Like most countries, Denmark applies the one-China principle — under which Beijing bars other countries from having simultaneous diplomatic relations with Taipei — though it does maintain relations with Taiwan.

Cut off politically from the rest of China since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the territory is self-governing but is not recognised by
the United Nations.

Beijing considers Taiwan a rebel province that will one day return under its control, by force if necessary.

China’s sabre-rattling has increased considerably over the past year, with fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers breaching Taiwan’s air defence zone on a near-daily basis.

“Our government is fully aware of the threats to regional security, and is actively enhancing our national defence capabilities to protect our
democracy,” Tsai told the conference in a video address on Monday. US President Joe Biden is expected to present his China strategy soon, as
calls mount for him to publicly commit to defending Taiwan militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.