A Reuters article reported today that Amnesty International has presented its 2015 human rights award to both Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and American folksinger Joan Baez. Ai, a vocal critic of the Chinese government, has been banned from leaving China after an 81-day detention in 2011. During that time, he was detained without charge and held mostly in solitary confinement, a punishment he (and most of the world) believes was given in response to his political dissent.
In a statement, Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said of Ai, “Through his work Ai Weiwei reminds us that the right of every individual to express their self must be protected, not just for the sake of society, but also for art and humanity,” and called Baez “a formidable force for good over more than five decades,” citing her commitment to peaceful protest and human rights issues.
Weiwei has been protesting his travel ban by putting flowers in his bicycle basket every day since November 2013. He is also active on Twitter, reporting last Tuesday that his travel ban had been in place for 480 days. He will most likely be unable to receive his joint award during the ceremony in Berlin on May 21.