Ai Weiwei praises Canada for having a 'very open attitude' towards refugees
Ai Weiwei poses for a photograph in Toronto on Thursday, September 28, 2017. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, September 28, 2017 5:31PM EDT
TORONTO -- Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei says Canada holds a very important role in welcoming refugees as other countries close their borders.
The outspoken artist was in Toronto to accept the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship and promote a documentary that showcases the plight of displaced people around the world.
Ai praised Canada for having a "very open attitude" in its refugee record, and bemoaned a global far-right movement that has demonized immigrants.
The prolific and provocative artist is known for large-scale installations that deal with freedom of expression, human rights and technology.
He's lived much of his life in exile. His political criticism of the Chinese government resulted in his detainment for 81 days and the loss of his passport for two years.
Ai bemoaned the U.S. administration's plans to cap refugee admissions to 45,000 in the coming year, but says it reflects a broader antagonism in the West that must be confronted.
The anti-immigrant stance trumpeted by U.S. president Donald Trump is an unfortunate product of our democracy, says Ai.
"He is a true product of the West, of democracy," Ai said Thursday as he met with several reporters, taking the time to post tweets and Instagram on his smartphone between chats.
"We have to admit that. By admitting that then we see what is the potential danger."
Ai says the U.S. has a particular responsibility to offer safe haven to those fleeing war, hunger and persecution.
"For the U.S., such a powerful nation and as a kind of leader in the democratic world, to set up this kind of bad, bad example, to limit even less than half of the previous administration promised, which is not a big number even, that means they are withdrawing their responsibility," said Ai, who's upcoming film "Human Flow" reveals harrowing tales from various refugee camps around the world.
"I think all those far-right movements really show the nations which lack in the confidence and lack understanding of what humanity is about. To just simply push people away and to refuse to accept people who are in danger ... is such a shame.
"We can see very bad cases in the past of what happened and we better learn something from our past."