SHANGHAI, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Chinese workers under official orders have destroyed the Shanghai studio of a prominent dissident artist without warning, the artist says.
Ai Weiwei told The New York Times Wednesday the studio, and a neighboring one he had designed for a friend, were part of an emerging arts center on the outskirts of Shanghai.
"Everything is gone," he said. "It's all black now. They finished the job at 9 o'clock last night."
Ai said he did not know the reason, but suspects a connection to his political activities. He had known about the order since July, but said officials had told him it would not be carried out until after the Year of the Rabbit begins Feb. 3. He suspected the destruction was sped up to avoid attention.
Neighbors of the studio called Ai's assistant Tuesday morning when they heard heavy machinery. Ai rushed onto an airplane in Beijing, where he lives, and arrived in time to see four machines and dozens of workers demolishing the site, the newspaper reported.
Shanghai city officials could not be reached Wednesday for comment.