In December 2010 I conducted a 90-minute interview with Wen Tao, as part of my documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. On April 3, just hours after Ai Weiwei was detained at the Beijing airport, Wen Tao was taken away by four or five plainclothes officers. Both have not been heard from since, and no charges have been announced.
Ai Weiwei is the most prominent of those recently detained by the Chinese government during the current crackdown (termed by the New Yorker's Evan Osnos "The Big Chill"). Very few people know much about Wen Tao or the other writers, lawyers and activists who have been detained. I edited together this short clip to introduce the world to Wen Tao, to give him a face and a voice.
Wen Tao was not Ai Weiwei's employee. The 38-year-old was an independent journalist. He worked for 11 years as a sports reporter before taking a staff position at the Party-run English newspaper Global Times. He became friends with Weiwei while writing stories about the artist's activities (see some of his articles about Weiwei here and here). These articles eventually cost Wen Tao his job.
Wen Tao was also an avid Twitter user, with the handle @wentommy. He spoke excellent English as well as Mandarin. As you can see from the clip, even as he began to spend more time with Weiwei he clearly saw himself as a journalist. After being fired from his Global Times job he took to documenting Weiwei's work, and added his own analysis and research to the mix.
Those of us who knew Wen Tao in person or online are all very concerned and eagerly anticipate any news of his whereabouts, health and the precise reason for his detainment. Currently two other associates of Ai Weiwei's are also missing. Weiwei's staff have been unable to reach his company's accountant Ms. Hu, and his long-time friend and driver Zhang Jingsong, known to most as "Xiao Pang".
Share this video and don't forget Wen Tao and others, who are detained just like Ai Weiwei.
Follow Alison Klayman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/aliklay