Ai Weiwei: Atmosphere in Germany 'Reflects the 1930s'

Chinese dissident artist tells the Guardian mood in Germany and much of Europe is 'very scary'

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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei arrives for a news conference, Berlin, Germany, October 26, 2015.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei arrives for a news conference, Berlin, Germany, October 26, 2015.Credit: AP

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei told the Guardian on Monday that the mood in Germany and in much of Europe is "very scary" and a "reflection of the 1930s."

The artist, who was invited to design a flag to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights, told the newspaper about a recent argument he had with a Berlin taxi driver which he claimed was connected to his refugee status.

"He told me to get out of the car, and when I said I wouldn’t he slammed on the brakes and we all fell forward. My son hit his head. He used his vehicle on a public street to express his anger," Weiwei said.

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"I am fighting battles wherever I go – including with German people who say I should be grateful to them because I am a refugee, and they paid for my life. This is the mood in Germany right now, the posters I see in the streets saying: ‘We can make our own babies, we don’t need foreigners.’ It’s the mood in much of Europe, including the U.K. It’s very scary because this kind of moment is a reflection of the 1930s," he said.

Weiwei told the British newspaper that an increasing number of people avoid using the words "human rights."

"Less and less people now talk about human rights since the end of the cold war," he said. Speaking of his home-country China, he said, "People use words like common values instead, so as not to offend the Chinese authorities with whom they want to do business. Increasingly, people are even viewing human rights in a negative way."

On a positive note, the artist, who moved to Berlin in 2015 after being detained, prosecuted and closely watched by the Chinese government, said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government was "really very supportive."

"I met her by chance in the Chinese restaurant I go to... I shook her hand and as it was my birthday she congratulated me. I thanked her for all the effort her government made to bring me out," Weiwei said.