Ai Weiwei at his installation in the Tate Modern. He has since been detained by authorities in China. Photograph: BBC/Getty

Two days before Ai Weiwei’s disappearance, the artist spoke out about police surveillance and harassment at his Beijing studio, and warned that “people with different minds and voices are being thrown into prison”.

Describing the scrutiny he had been receiving from the authorities, he said: “There are two surveillance cameras at my gate entrance, my phone is tapped and every message I send on my microblog is censored.

“Yesterday and the day before over a dozen police came to my place, but in my opinion, it is purely nuisance. They are coming again today,” he said, speaking to German broadcaster ARD in his last interview before he was stopped by officials at Beijing airport.

“China in many ways is just like the middle ages. China’s control over people’s minds and the flow of information is just like the time before the Enlightenment,” he said.


Charlotte Higgins