Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei
has returned home having been freed after more than two months’ detention.
He was bailed late on Wednesday after pleading guilty to charges of tax
evasion, Xinhua news agency said.
An outspoken critic of China’s human rights record, his arrest in April
prompted a global campaign for his release.
The 54-year-old said he was back home and in good health in a phone interview
with the BBC.
“I am already home, released on bail, I can’t talk to media but I am well,
thanks for all the media attention,” he said.
Mr Ai was detained as he boarded a Beijing flight bound for Hong Kong.
Perhaps most famous for helping design the Bird’s Nest stadium that became
the centre-piece for Beijing’s 2008 Olympics, he was held at a secret location
without access to a lawyer.
Beijing alleged the artist had evaded taxes and destroyed evidence; his
supporters said the charges were motivated by his activism.
‘I’m out’Xinhua reported that Mr Ai – who, it said, was suffering from a “chronic
illness” – had offered to repay the taxes and would be released because of “his
good attitude in confessing his crimes”.
Police said the Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, the company that
handles the business aspects of Mr Ai’s career, had evaded “a huge amount of
taxes and intentionally destroyed accounting documents”, said Xinhua.
Ever since Ai Weiwei’s detention at Beijing airport in April there have been
calls for his release.
His supporters say the charges against him were politically motivated – an
accusation strenuously denied by the Chinese authorities.
The artist’s detention provoked an international outcry. The US and other
countries said his arrest was a sign of the deteriorating human rights situation
It came during the biggest crackdown against dissidents in China for more
than 20 years, following calls for Middle-East style protests.
Hundreds of Chinese lawyers, activists and intellectuals have been detained
or been questioned by the authorities. Some have disappeared.
China’s foreign ministry previously said that Mr Ai was
under investigation for “economic crimes”.
It insisted that his arrest – which came amid one of China’s biggest
clampdowns on activists in years and was condemned by Western governments – had
“nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression”.
But the release coincides with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit this week
to Germany and the UK, two countries with which Mr Ai has strong professional
ties and public support.
Beijing has clearly been under enormous pressure to free the artist, says the
BBC’s Damian Grammaticas in Beijing.
The case had generated criticism from the international community that China
was breaking its own laws by holding Mr Ai in secret without access to a lawyer,
adds our correspondent.
A message from the twitter account of Mr Ai’s lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, said he
had received a text message from his client’s phone which simply read: “I’m
Artist’s appealChinese human rights activist Wen Kejian welcomed the release, saying Mr Ai’s
arrest had been political.
Rights group Amnesty International said his long detention without charge had
violated China’s own legal process.
“It is vital that the international outcry over Ai Weiwei be extended to
those activists still languishing in secret detention or charged with inciting
subversion,” said Amnesty’s Catherine Baber.
The circumstances of one of Ai Weiwei’s relatives, his accountant and driver,
who were detained at the same time as him, remain unknown.
British sculptor Anish Kapoor, who had led criticism of Beijing over the
detention, called for the artist to be given a fair trial.
“While I am thankful that he has been released, I do not think that artists
should present their work in China until the situation has been resolved,” said
The Indian-born sculptor had dedicated his monumental Leviathan art
installation in Paris, unveiled last month, to Mr Ai.
Ai Weiwei gained international recognition in the early 1980s for his
monolithic brick sculptures.
Last October, he unveiled a carpet of 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds
at London’s Tate Modern, which he said questioned the role of an individual in
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
1 55 55
his primary challenge (AW), the most important thing he can do (AE), what he doesn’t like (AW), and what he must do/has to do (AE) all = 15 = Taxes.