Thu, 12 November 2020

6:30 pm - 7:40 pm GMT

Ai Weiwei – Human Rights in the Age of COVID-19

In conversation with Rana Mitter and Sophie Richardson

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The artist and activist returns to How To Academy to reveal an insider’s perspective on the militarised Wuhan lockdown and the wider implications of the pandemic for global human rights.

On 1st December 2019, the first patient with COVID-19 symptoms was identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Officials repeatedly denied that human-to-human contact was possible, concealed the number of diagnosed patients, and punished medical staff for disclosing information about the epidemic. In January the city was placed under a brutally efficient lockdown to control the virus – with field hospitals erected in a matter of days and residents sealed in their homes.

China has assumed the status of superpower on the global stage, yet it remains poorly understood by other nations. For dissident artist and activist Ai Weiwei, the lockdown of Wuhan is a powerful lens through which to understand Chinese crisis management and the country’s social control machine – through surveillance, ideological brainwashing, and brute determination to control every aspect of society. His new documentary Coronation takes us inside the locked down city, using footage captured by ordinary citizens living in Wuhan – from couriers to communist party cadres, emergency workers to patients infected by COVID.

In this livestream event introduced by Chris Buckley, a NYT reporter who experienced the Wuhan lockdown first-hand, Ai Weiwei will be joined by Rana Mitter, Oxford historian of modern China, and Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch, to explore the themes of Coronation and reflect on the difficulties we face as individuals and countries in the context of globalisation.

Ultimately, the result is a society lacking trust, transparency, and respect for humanity. Despite the impressive scale and speed of the Wuhan lockdown, we face a more existential question: can civilization survive without humanity? Can nations rely on one another without transparency or trust?

All tickets for this event include both access to the livestream event and rental of Ai Weiwei’s new film Coronation, which will be sent to you to watch in advance of the livestream.

All tickets include a £1 donation to Human Rights Watch.

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Ai Weiwei

Contemporary Artist, Activist and Filmmaker

Ai Weiwei (artist/activist) has made documentary films since 2003. Ai is the recipient of the 2015 Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International and the 2012 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation. Ai has made numerous documentaries about social and political issues that have won major film festival awards, including Vivos (2019), Human Flow (2017), Ai Weiwei’s Appeal ¥15,220,910.50 (2014), Ordos 100 (2012), So Sorry (2012), One Recluse (2010) and Disturbing the Peace (2009). Ai’s most recent film Vivos premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Rana Mitter

Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China, University of Oxford

Rana Mitter is the author of several books, including A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World and Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945, named a Book of the Year in The Economist and Financial Times. He has commented on Asia for the BBC, NPR, CNN, the New York Times, the History Channel, and the World Economic Forum at Davos. He is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford.

Sophie Richardson

China Director, Human Rights Watch

Sophie Richardson is the China director at Human Rights Watch. Dr. Richardson has testified before the European Parliament and the US Senate and House of Representatives.; provided commentary to the BBC, CNN, the Far Eastern Economic Review, Foreign Policy, National Public Radio, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post; and is the author of China, Cambodia, and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

Chris Buckley

Chief China Correspondent for the New York Times

Chris Buckley is chief China correspondent for the New York Times, and is currently working from Sydney after being forced to leave China in May. Before then, he has spent much of the past 24 years in China, much of it as a reporter for Reuters and the New York Times. He has written widely about Chinese politics and social change, and was in Wuhan from the day that the government locked down the city on Jan. 23 and stayed there for two and a half months.