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In a video secretly recorded by Chinese artist and political and social activist Ai Weiwei for last month’s TED conference, Ai says, “I live in a society in which freedom of speech is not allowed. It’s very hard to find individual expression through media or through any public territories. To help China to become a more democratic society, you need people who can act, who can give out their opinions. I talk to the young people. I’m trying to find a way to encourage people to be involved. Only when you are doing that you can have a civil society.”

On April 3, the outspoken artist was taken by authorities at Beijing’s airport and has not been seen or heard from since. Some suggest it could be a crackdown on the spread of the Arab world’s Jasmine revolution into China. Whatever the reasons behind it, the government’s disappearance of Ai Weiwei was not within the regulations of China’s legal system.

In response this month, petitions and protests against Ai’s removal have taken place across the West and last weekend reached Hong Kong. Also in challenge to the Chinese government actions, Ai Weiwei was selected as one of “The 2011 TIME 100’s” most influential people in the world: “Ai has shown compassion for his fellow citizens and spoken out for victims of government abuses, calling for political reforms to better serve the people. It is very sad that the Chinese government has seen a need to silence one of its most innovative and illustrious citizens.”

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