A year after my release, I am more convinced than ever of the need to stand up to China’s monstrous machine.

A year ago tomorrow, I was released from more than two months of secret detention. Police told me today that they have lifted my bail conditions. I am happy that the year is up, but also feel sorry about it. I have no sense of why I lost my freedom and if you don’t know how you lost something, how can you protect it?

“Wei” means “future” and also “uncertainty”, and the future really is unknown. They have said I cannot leave China because they are still investigating cases against me – for pornographyexchanging foreign currency and bigamy. It is very, very strange. I am not a criminal. They grabbed something from me because they have power.

The 81 days of detention were a nightmare. I am not unique: this has happened to many people, and is still happening. It’s an experience no one should share. They were extreme conditions, created by a system that thinks it is above the law, and has become a kind of monstrous machine. Everybody who has been through it loses their original hope or has it changed somehow.

There are so many moments when you feel desperate and hopeless and you feel that’s the end of it. But still, the next morning, you wake up, you hear the birds singing and the wind blows. You have to ask yourself: can you afford to give up the fight for freedom of expression or human dignity? As an artist, this is an essential value that can never be given up.

I often ask myself if I am afraid of being detained again. My inner voice says I am not. I love freedom, like anybody; maybe more than most people. But it is such a tragedy if you live your life in fear. That’s worse than actually losing your freedom.

What I gained from the experience is a much stronger sense of responsibility, and an understanding of what the problems are and how one can understand what’s happening and remain a positive force. You have to see your own position from the other side. At the same time you have to maintain a passion for what you are doing. You have to have sensitivity and joy. If you don’t have that, you will be like a fish on the beach, drying up on the sand.

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