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Lego Says It Is Changing Its Policy After Ai Weiwei Controversy

Lego says it is changing its guidelines for the purchase of large amounts of its iconic toy bricks, a policy that had generated a social media firestorm when used to block sales to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

The company said in a statement that it will no longer ask people who want to buy the bricks in bulk what they're using them for:

"Instead, the customers will be asked to make it clear — if they intend to display their LEGO creations in public — that the LEGO Group does not support or endorse the specific projects."

In October, Ai said Lego had refused to sell him the bricks he needed for an exhibition on free speech at Australia's National Gallery of Victoria. He intended to use the bricks to create portraits of freedom advocates.

A frequent critic of China who was imprisoned by the government, Ai accused the Danish company of censorship and said it was afraid to offend Beijing.

After the company's decision, supporters of Ai set up donation points around the world for people to donate used bricks. Ai also told NPR that he was flooded with messages of support on social media:

"They're not necessarily museumgoers, but they understand what is the most important meaning of art, which is to really express yourself successfully and to really defend the essential values."

Ai said pressure from his supporters had pressured Lego to change its policy on bulk orders, and he told The Associated Press that it was a "good move":

"Lego is a language which everybody can appreciate and should be able to use ... according to their will, and that's what all freedom of expression is about."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.
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