Artist Ai Weiwei unfazed by China ending presidential term limits

SYDNEY China's removal of presidential term limits, effectively letting President Xi Jinping hold office for life, will have no impact on its culture, artist Ai Weiwei said yesterday, as he unveiled a giant artwork in Sydney depicting asylum seekers.

Mr Ai, one of China's most high-profile artists and political activists, has become a vocal campaigner on migration as the number of people forced from their homes - largely by violence and war - has reached a record 65 million.

In Sydney, he presented his 60m-long inflatable raft, carrying about 300 oversized human figures, a day after China removed the term limits from its constitution, raising concerns about a return to strongman rule.

"China has always been an imperial state," Mr Ai, 60, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp in an interview.

"It doesn't matter if it's communist, now capitalism. It's a fatalistic society, so (if) it changes leaders or not, the system and the culture always stays the same."

First designed for the National Gallery of Prague, Mr Ai's Law of the Journey is made from the rubber used by vessels carrying refugees across the Mediterranean Sea.

Installed on Cockatoo Island, a former shipbuilding site, it will serve as the centrepiece of the Sydney Biennale, running from Friday to June 11.

Mr Ai said the location was appropriate because of Australia's controversial policy of detaining unauthorised boat arrivals in camps in the Pacific island nation of Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

"Australia's refugee record is quite poor, internationally," he said.

"There's no excuse for any kind of policy (that) should not consider protecting basic human rights." - REUTERS