Ai Weiwei, the world famous artist has finally been released on bail after more than two-and-a-half months of detention in China. This follows a substantial international campaign calling for his release and freedom.
Weiwei, whose name still adorns the outside of Tate Modern, London with “Free Ai Weiwei” has spoke to UK newspaper the Guardian saying, “I’m back with my family, I am very happy. I’m fine.”
Beijing police said they had released the 54-year-old “because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes and a chronic illness”, a Chinese news agency reported.
Ai Weiwei’s detention on 3 April sparked an international outcry as he vanished after he was detained by police at Beijing airport. Reasons for his detention was unsure and was later said by officials to be invasion of taxes relating to his company The Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd. However, the controversy theorists still believe this has nothing to do it and cite the friends and colleagues who also went missing shortly after Ai as a reason for this.
Nicholas Bequelin, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, welcomed news of the 54-year-old artist’s release.
“His detention was political and his release is political. It is the result of a huge domestic and international outcry that forced the government to this resolution … I think Beijing realised how damaging it was to hold China’s most famous artist in detention,” he said.
Bequelin said he expected Ai to be allowed to return home, but that he would probably not be allowed to travel abroad without official permission and would have to report to police regularly.
The Chinese government has said that Ai was arrested for economic crimes, although his family believe it was retaliation for his social and political activism.
Some human rights campaigners thought the economic focus of the allegations was intended to make it harder for other governments to press Ai’s case. But others suggested that it offered officials the possibility of drawing back – as they appear to have done – whereas it would have been too embarrassing to drop political charges.