Ai Weiwei Says China's Detention of Him Gave Son Nightmares

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By Katie Wong and Shanshan Dong

LONDON — Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei revealed Friday that his incarceration left his six-year-old son grappling with nightmares.

Chinese officials detained Ai for 81 days and seized his travel documents in 2011, charging him with tax evasion, an accusation he has long denied. His family and supporters say he was being punished for speaking out about social problems.

Ai, who designed the Bird's Nest stadium for the Beijing 2008 Olympics, said: "I’m sure it’s deeply affected me, affected a lot of people, my family, especially my mom and my son. My son had nightmares, he told me: ‘Daddy, I think they will never let you out.’ … He completely lost his faith."

Ai WeiweiImages) / Getty Images

He has been in Germany visiting his son since recovering his passport in July after four years.

The confiscation of his passport did not stop his art from being exhibited around the world however, including shows in the U.S., Europe and Hong Kong. He continued to curate remotely through Skype and stayed in contact with the world via social media.

In response to a question by NBC News about whether China's recent economic turmoil would damage the reputation of President Xi Jinping, the normally outspoken Ai replied: "I don't think that's just in relation to the confidence in one person's leadership. I think China has been going through a very long time of steady growth which is obviously a miracle, but of course it's created by historical reasons it's not because of one person or one party.”

The 58-year-old also said the Chinese government’s crackdown on corruption was having an impact on "political reform" and was "better for the society.”

A new exhibition is due to open at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Arts on September 19.