Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist who has been called his country’s most dangerous man, is in London, where he’s apparently been hanging out with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In a picture Ai posted to his Instagram account on Wednesday night, the two men are cheerfully giving the camera the middle finger. Fitting, for two of the world’s biggest celebrity dissidents.
Ai is in town to open a massive retrospective retrospective exhibit of his work at the Royal Academy of Arts. He left China at the end of July only a week after Chinese authorities returned his passport following a four-year suspension. British immigration authorities had initially declined the artist’s request for a long-term visa, but reneged on that and issued him a six-month multientry business permit last month. He spent most of August in Berlin, where his son and the boy’s mother live, and seems to have arrived in London a week ago.
Assange, meanwhile, has been camping out at the Ecuadorean embassy there for more than three years. The Australian hacker earned himself global notoriety in 2010 when WikiLeaks, an international treasury of classified documents and otherwise undisclosed information, began syndicating diplomatic files concerning U.S. military behavior in the Middle East provided by former soldier Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning. Ecuadorean asylum prevents his extradition to Sweden — where he faces an arrest warrant related to sexual assault allegations — and then, his supporters worry, to the U.S.
The place and circumstances of Ai and Assange’s meeting are unclear. Officially, Assange hasn’t set foot outside of the Ecuadorean embassy since he entered it in 2012.
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