Three days in Beijing with Ai Weiwei, Jacob Appelbaum and Laura Poitras, the global dissident elite


It’s a Thursday morning in Beijing, and the world’s most famous living artist, Ai Weiwei, is sitting with one of the world’s most controversial technologists, Jacob Appelbaum, in the second-floor lobby of the East Hotel. Appelbaum is drinking a latte and eating a cherry danish with a fork. Ai is watching him.

Appelbaum, a Wikileaks collaborator who helped develop the anonymous web browser Tor, is wearing dark, thick-framed glasses and a black shirt that reads “Fuck the NSA.” Ai takes out his iPhone, places it under the table for a better angle, snaps a photo of Appelbaum’s shirt, and uploads it to Instagram. Within a few minutes, the photo has garnered 500 likes from Ai’s 100,000 followers.

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For the first time in three days, Ai and Appelbaum are together without the presence of documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras. Poitras, who just won an Oscar for her government surveillance opus, Citizenfour, came to Beijing to create a short film about Appelbaum and Ai…

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