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'Germany is not an open society': Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on leaving Berlin

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Ai Wewei in his studio in Berlin. Photo: DPA
15:43 CEST+02:00
Ai Weiwei, the Chinese activist and artist, has lived in self-imposed exile in Berlin since 2015. But he plans to leave Germany because he believes it is too intolerant.

In an interview with the German daily Welt published Friday, Ai said: “Germany is not an open society. It is a society that wants to be open, but above all it protects itself. German culture is so strong that it doesn't really accept other ideas and arguments.”

Ai, 61, added that there is “hardly any room for open debate”.

The artist, who is an outspoken critic of China's government, moved to Berlin in July 2015 after spending four years under house arrest in China.

The artist said he had reported experiences of discrimination to authorities while living in Berlin, such as being thrown out of taxis. However, the office investigating them had come to the conclusion the incidents involved “cultural differences” rather than discriminatory offences, he said.

Ai added: “This sounds to me like the Chinese government justifying its violations of human rights with 'cultural differences' to the West."

Ai also slammed German politicians and cultural institutions for not denouncing Chinese human rights violations.

“My family and I enjoyed living here very much, but I am leaving Berlin," he said. "This country doesn't need me because it's so self-centered."

READ ALSO: Ai Weiwei 'loves Berlin' and plans long stay

The artist doesn't yet know where he'll move to with his family.

"I don't have a place I belong to because China has rejected me since I was born,” he said.  “Those who know their destination are no longer refugees. I am a refugee."

In the last year Ai had spoken out about feeling less secure in Germany.

He said he was "fighting battles" wherever he went "including with German people who say I should be grateful to them because I am a refugee, and they paid for my life".

In the interview with the Guardian at the end of last year he added: “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 UK. It’s very scary because this kind of moment is a reflection of the 1930s.”

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