Mar 24, 2015

By Kim O'Hare

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Amnesty International has awarded its top honour to Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who has spent years shining light on his country’s restrictive political atmosphere, and to U.S. folk singer Joan Baez, for her civil rights activism.

Ai said in an interview Tuesday that the Ambassador of Conscience award was a reminder of his social responsibilities as an artist, especially as the Chinese government tightens its grip on free expression.

He noted that the repression was affecting “ordinary people around us concerned about basic issues” while answering a question about five women’s rights activists who remain in detention for planning anti-harassment protests.

Baez was cited for activism in the U.S. dating back 50 years.

Previous award winners include Myanmar dissident Aung San Suu Kyi and Irish rock band U2.

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