China ups campaign against artist Ai Weiwei

Chinese officials are escalating their campaign to silence a world-famous artist with a reputation for speaking his mind.

CBS News correspondent Celia Hatton reports that although Ai Weiwei is China's most famous artist, even helping design the country's Olympic Stadium, the government yesterday tried again to pin new charges on him. But these days, he's better known as the Chinese government's most outspoken opponent.

After 2008's Sichuan earthquake, he headed his own investigation asking why schools collapsed while government buildings stayed intact. Since then, he's railed against injustice, pointing out the unfair advantages of China's elite.

Last April, protests erupted around the world when China's secret police detained Ai Weiwei for 81 days. When he was released, he was hit with a $2.4 million tax bill. In a phone interview with CBS News, he said it was all about revenge for his criticism of China's Communist Party.

"The whole accusation has no base and it's really fabricated by police," Weiwei said.

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As anger over the government's harassment of Ai Weiwei spread over the Chinese internet, the artist's office was inundated with 30,000 online donations totaling $1.5 million. Others came in person from across China to Weiwei's suburban Beijing workspace, literally throwing money over the wall into his studio.

Now, police surround the area near his studio, even harassing the CBS crew while we were filming.

Ai Weiwei's not backing down. To legally launch an appeal, the artist had to hand over a third of what officials say he owes.

"More or less, I was like a hostage half a year ago. Now I pay the ransom and I feel I was robbed," Weiwei said.

On Friday, police opened a new investigation into charges that the artist and his assistant are manufacturing pornography involving nude portraits of Ai Weiwei and adult women - photographs that have been on the internet for over a year.

  • Celia Hatton

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