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After the t-shirts being allowed for over 2 months, has recently determined that the t-shirts bearing a photo of a sunflower along with the phrase “Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei?” are a violation of his “right of publicity”.  The site now refuses to print the shirts and has removed the shirts from their marketplace.

It is puzzling and, no doubt, disappointing to those still wishing to order the shirts, since the design is dedicated to the protest of Ai’s detention.  Being a bit of a protestor himself, it is doubtful Ai would object very strongly to the image or message of the design.

So, is the “better safe than sorry” approach to censorship acceptable?  I don’t really have an answer. has been a good company so far and I’ve never had a similar experience.   What do you guys think?

At any rate, there is good news.  Soon, I will be obtaining a copy of the banned image and it will be posted for free download so Ai’s supporters can print their own tees (or posters!).

For those who think the situation will be resolved more quickly if we all just close our eyes and do nothing, Ai said himself that if we ignore the threat it grows stronger– so while I can’t know for certain, I think even he would disagree.

If you wish to try your luck and order other designs protesting Ai’s detention, they can be found at  Will the orders be fulfilled?  No idea.  Hopefully, the remaining designs will be recognized as a human rights issue, and not a publicity issue.  

If they refuse to print your order, don’t worry– they issue prompt refunds for orders that can’t or won’t be printed.  And, those designs will be offered elsewhere.

Tshirts, buttons, bumper stickers, and hats featuring the phrases “Free Ai Weiwei”, “Where is Ai Weiwei?”, “Love the Future”, and “Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei” are available in the Free_Ai_Weiwei store on

10% of total sales will be donated to charity.

My personal fave is the design with the sunflower– partly because it reminds me of Ai’s sunflower seeds exhibit, and partly because the one prominent petal makes it almost look like the sunflower is giving the bird (something Ai is known to do).   Or maybe that last bit is just in my head.  Does anyone else see it??

The resemblance the petals bear to a flame is nice, too.

If it was possible, this stuff would all be free.  Unfortunately, I currently lack the funds to buy and distribute these by the truckload.

Initially, I was more hesitant to fully boycott all goods made in China, since this often only hurts those whom it is intended to help. Typically, those in power hoard scarce resources and it is the rest of the people who suffer.

However, money seems to be what most understand, better than petitions and protests.

If the tainted pet food, lead-paint toys, and cadmium-covered drinking glasses haven’t convinced you to buy fewer Chinese products (or none at all), perhaps nothing will.  But I will try to convince you anyway.

I admit that I myself have been less than fully conscientious when it comes to buying various personal and household products.  I haven’t always looked at the “Made in” labels, and at times I have gone for the lower price the “Made in China” stamp offers.  No more.

As an artist/individual who has at times been too outspoken for my own good, I can easily imagine myself in a similar position to that of dissidents being “detained” or “re-educated”, which is perhaps why the arrest of Ai Weiwei has struck such a chord.

So, I recently contacted, which handles the art prints and gift merchandise I offer through the soulbearing store, and asked which items are produced in China.  They responded very quickly that all of their product manufacturers must comply with fair labor standards, that many products are made domestically, and that the mugs offered are produced in China but printed here in USA. 

It is important to note that is a fabulous company offering high quality merchandise and prints from many fabulous artists.  However, I cannot in good conscience keep offering items produced in China since I object so strongly to the Chinese government’s current treatment of its own people.  As lovely as some of the mug designs were, and as much as it pained me to cease offering them, I had to ask myself: Which is more important? Humans or mugs?

Of course, it’s a no-brainer.  So, the mugs are no longer available through my store, and if I find that any other products are manufactured in China, I will do “close-outs” and cease offering those items too.

I realize it is only a drop in the bucket.  But, while I doubt my individual act of protest will make a huge difference alone, I do hope it will start a trend of boycotting goods made in China, until the Chinese government upholds its promises to allow more free thought and expression.  Enough drops in the bucket can create a flood.

My heart sank this morning reading an article claiming Ai was beginning to “confess” to tax evasion, bigamy, and pornography– not because I believe he is guilty, but because it seems like such a blatant smear tactic by those detaining him.  It is disappointing that such a strong country would need to resort to such tactics.

That article is here: 

And here is an article outlining the illegality of his treatment and detention:

While I may agree that the Chinese government has every right to enforce its laws within its boundaries, it seems they do not always comply with the law themselves.  This isn’t necessarily so unusual in any government, but that doesn’t make it right.

Of course, I’m not arrogant or naive enough to believe that the Chinese government gives a rat’s behind what I think.  However, if there is enough sustained global attention, perhaps we can all make a difference. 

Following is a letter I received from regarding the petition to release Ai Weiwei, and the link to the petition.  At last check, it had roughly 70,000 signatures.  Please add yours, if you haven’t already.

Please sign it, and forward it to as many people as possible.  It only takes a minute: 

Dear S.,

Ai Weiwei is the most famous artist in China, best known for his iconic “Bird’s Nest” stadium that was the focal point of the Beijing Olympics. 

Ai has always pushed the envelope, both with his internationally-acclaimed art and with his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government. 

But these past weeks have brought Beijing’s harshest crackdown on dissidents in more than a decade. And on April 3rd, government agents arrested Ai at the Beijing airport and seized papers and computers from his studio.

We don’t know where Ai is now. The Chinese government is holding him on flimsy charges of “economic crimes” — an allegation often used to silence dissenters. 

Twelve leading figures in the international arts world, including the directors of the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, and Tate Museum, have started a petition on demanding that the Chinese government free Ai Weiwei. 

The regime in Beijing has proven largely resistant to pressure from foreign governments. But they’ve made a huge push to raise China’s profile in the arts — the government just finished building the world’s largest art museum. Widespread condemnation, led by the arts community, may be our best chance to save his life. 

Please sign the petition to free Ai Weiwei as soon as possible:

Thanks for taking action,

– Weldon and the team

Readers who do not know who Ai Weiwei is should start googling (or wait until the end of this entry, where there is a link to a Frontline segment about the artist).  Here are the basics:

He is a most impressive and very outspoken Chinese artist and activist, who was recently arrested by the Chinese government (presumably for doing what artists do: asking questions and expressing observations).

Many are upset by the arrest and it has rapidly been dubbed by many as an “international incident”, particularly since officials will not reveal his location, condition, or clear reasons for the arrest.  He has been missing for about 3 days now.  So far, there is only a vague statement regarding suspicion of “economic crimes”, although the accusation is as suspect as was the “sexual assault” charges against Julian Assange immediately following the Wikileaks release.

There was also a chilling statement regarding the artist “paying a price for his special choices”.

But why does it matter?  It’s China’s internal affair and everyone should back off and let them handle it, right?

In Western culture, we often take for granted our freedom of expression, and it may seem clear to some that many of us are still evolving and developing the skills necessary to cope with this freedom and use it responsibly.  There are some legal limitations, but overall the limits placed on our free speech seem reasonable.  (For example, one can be arrested for yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater if there is no actual fire, or for threatening physical harm to another person.)  

One of our most important freedoms stemming from our freedom of expression is the freedom to question and even criticize our government.  This may seem disrespectful in some cultures, but in ours it is expected.  It helps keep government accountable… at least to some degree.

Another of the benefits of the free sharing of ideas is that it allows all of us to learn from each other.  Agreement isn’t necessarily necessary.

It may be the points on which we disagree that allow us to learn the most, and to grow in a direction more beneficial to ourselves and those around us, provided we are open-minded enough to tolerate varying perspectives and reasonable enough to discuss issues peacefully. 

When the Chinese government silences voices like those of Ai Weiwei and the countless other artists and activists it has silenced, it steals from itself and from us all.  It steals the insights, perspectives, and ideas which may have benefited its own future generations, and ours too.

And, by not speaking out when one is able, one is quietly condoning it, and it spreads as a blight.

If you’re not convinced of the importance of standing up for our fellow human beings when they cannot, consider the following quote from a survivor of Nazi Germany:

 “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.  Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

–Martin Niemoller


Government oppression is not “ok”, and “cultural differences” are no excuse.  Speak out.

If you don’t act, the dangers become stronger.” – Ai WeiWei in PBS Frontline video “Who is afraid of Ai Weiwei?”

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