19 May 2015 News

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Legendary folk singer Joan Baez and world-renowned artist Ai Weiwei – both committed activists – will be the joint recipients of Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2015, the human rights organisation announced today. Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award is the organisation’s top honour, recognising those who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights, through their life and work. The Award will be presented at a ceremony in Berlin on 21 May 2015, with speakers including singer-songwriter Patti Smith.

“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,” said Salil Shetty.

On learning of the announcement, Ai Weiwei said: “I am very privileged to receive this special honour, and shall not fail the encouragement and profound expectation of me with this Award. Freedom of expression is an essential human condition; it should be valued, respected and protected by all of us.”

Ai Weiwei is a world-renowned artist whose acclaimed work often explores the limits placed on the right of people in China to express themselves, as well as his personal experience of incarceration.

In 2010, Ai Weiwei was briefly detained and severely beaten by security officials just before he was due to testify for the defence during the trial of Tan Zuoren, an environmental activist who, along with Ai Weiwei, had documented the names of thousands of children who died during the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

After persistent harassment from the authorities, Ai Weiwei was detained in 2011 for 81 days without charge. A company he founded was later convicted of tax evasion by the Chinese authorities. Ai Weiwei remains under surveillance and is unable to leave the country.

Photo credit: Gao Yuan