BEIJING - One of China's most famous contemporary artists has been missing for more than a day after he was blocked from leaving the country and police raided his home, his wife said Monday.
The disappearance of artist Ai Weiwei comes as China carries out a massive crackdown on lawyers, writers and activists, arresting and detaining dozens since online calls for protests similar to those in the Middle East and North Africa began to circulate in February. No public protests have emerged.
Ai, an outspoken government critic, has been keeping an informal tally of those detentions on Twitter, where he has more than 70,000 followers. Ai, who has been barred from going abroad before, was stopped while preparing to board a flight to Hong Kong on Sunday. Police later raided his Beijing home and studio.
Mr Liu, a friend of the artist, said by law the police should by now have either charged or released Mr Ai.
Ai Weiwei is an internationally renowned artist. He currently has an exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery in London, displaying 100 million porcelain objects that look like sunflower seeds.
The 53-year-old is also one of the Chinese government's fiercest critics, complaining about a lack of basic rights and freedoms - often incorporating these political themes into his work.