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Ai Weiwei: 'Hong Kong is on fire and the world is indifferent'

Chinese artist and activist’s team has been documenting the intensifying anti-government protests over the weekend

The Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei says the world is standing by and letting Hong Kong burn as clashes between the anti-government protesters and police escalated over the weekend, with one police officer firing a live round.

“It’s not a joke, it’s revolution,” Ai says. “Hong Kong is on fire [and] the world is indifferent to the suffering and struggling of the Hong Kong youngsters.”

Ai’s team of researchers has been in Hong Kong filming the demonstrations that have engulfed the special administrative region for the past ten weeks—however, this weekend saw some of the most violent clashes yet. The footage, some of which Ai has posted on social media, could result in an art work, a documentary film or a series of interviews, he says.

According to a police statement, six officers drew their pistols and one officer fired a warning shot into the air on Sunday. Water cannons and tear gas were also used to disperse protesters. Up to 86 people have been arrested for offences including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons and assaulting police officers.

In one video Ai posted on Instagram, frontline protestors wearing yellow and white helmets and gas masks with pink filters use baseball bats to force back police armed with batons. Graffiti scrawled on a blockade in the middle of the road simply reads: “Hong Kong fighting for freedom”.

The protests began in June in opposition to an extradition bill that could have resulted in people being sent to China to face trial. The protests have since ramped up to become a broader anti-government, pro-democracy movement

In an interview with the BBC’s Today Programme earlier this month, Ai drew parallels with the student-led protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. “We should not forget 1989, when [China] used tanks to crush a very peaceful demonstration in Tiananmen Square and killed hundreds of people,” he said. “They know the West will not interfere, they know the West wants ‘business as usual’.”