August 20 2019, 20:09 (

Analysts think a full-blown crackdown on protests is unlikely, but the former British colony that was returned to China in 1997 is gripped by fear

Ai Weiwei (

Watching the Hong Kong protests from afar, Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei fears the worst: a brutal crackdown on protests as it was in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989, Artdaily learnt from AFP.

“I don’t think any prediction is too big,” the 61-year-old artist told AFP in an interview. China is “is a society which sacrifices anything to maintain its control.” “In 1989, the whole world was watching and the tanks crushed the students, <…> a peaceful demonstration.”

Ai says the protests have turned violent after two months and notes that Beijing has massed troops on the mainland to demonstrate its force.

Ai, who was in jail for criticising the country’s authorities, believes Beijing puts order above everything: “At the beginning of this demonstration, two months ago, I already warned that the Chinese government eventually, if they cannot make this demonstration disappear, will use violence.”

“I share their frustration,” he says about Hong Kong protesters. “I see myself as one of them, and I see them as part of me.” The situation is deteriorating “because the people are so frustrated” and police began to use tear gas and batons.

“They should defend ‘one country, two systems’. They should not let Hong Kong’s freedom disappear. And the only way they can do that is to keep fighting.”

Ai Weiwei also turns attention to western countries and accuses them of fearing to oppose Beijing that would endanger their commercial interests.

“Western countries want to take advantage of China <…> the factory of the world,” he said. It is a country with “no human rights, no regulations on working conditions, no environmental concerns”. “So they shy away from talking about human rights, and I disagree with them,” Ai Weiwei said.

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