AI’S RELEASE CONFIRMED, SEE BELOW FOR LIVEBLOG
Beijing government news outlet Xinhua has just announced that detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been released on bail, having confessed to his tax crimes and stated his willingness to pay the taxes he is said to have evaded. “A chronic disease” that the artist suffers from was also a factor in his release.
Check out the Xinhua report and the breaking news Tweet from the BBC below.
Chinese state media reports artist Ai Weiwei released on bail after confessing to tax evasion and as he suffers from chronic disease, AFP
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) June 22, 2011
The full text of the Xinhua report is quoted below:
The Beijing police department said Wednesday that Ai Weiwei has been released on bail because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from.
The decision comes also in consideration of the fact that Ai has repeatedly said he is willing to pay the taxes he evaded, police said.
The Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., a company Ai controlled, was found to have evaded a huge amount of taxes and intentionally destroyed accounting documents, police said.
The last time we heard from the artist was in mid-May when he was allowed to see his wife, Lu Qing. Lu said the artist was in good health, though he looked shaken. It remains to be seen if the artist is still unharmed; it wouldn’t be surprising if the Chinese police had physically abused the artist during his detainment.
In the end, the conflict seems to have come down to the likely trumped-up tax charges levied against Ai’s studio, a tactic that the Chinese government has used in the past to arrest and detain dissident artists and intellectuals.
It’s also important to remember that Ai’s friend and colleague Wen Tao remains missing, and has not been heard from since Ai’s arrest.
The Telegraph has the first video of Ai after his release. The artist speaks, but he admits that he won’t be able to sit for any interviews or speak about his detention. The possibility of the artist using Twitter seems low. Check out the video at their site or see the quotes below.
“I’m out, I’m back at home,” Mr Ai said by phone, his voice notably softer than before his incarceration, “please understand, however, that I cannot accept interviews.”
Asked how he was treated while in detention, Mr Ai again deferred to his bail conditions, but hinted that there were no imminent court proceedings against him. “I am out on bail for one year, that is all I can say,” he added.
The AP guesses that Ai’s release was a calculated move:
Ai’s release might also have been a face-saving move, coming just days before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was due to travel to Hungary, Britain and Germany, countries where supporters of the artist have been vocal in their condemnation of his detention.
— Austin Ramzy (@austinramzy) June 22, 2011
The New York Times defines what being “on bail” means in China, which sees to suggest that the charges will be dropped as long as Ai behaves:
It generally means that prosecutors have decided to drop charges against a suspect on certain conditions, including good behavior, and subject to monitoring during over a period of time during which charges could be reintroduced.
“This is a technique that the public security authorities sometimes use as a face-saving device to end controversial cases that are unwise or unnecessary for them to prosecute,” Jerome A. Cohen, a scholar of the Chinese legal system, said in an e-mail. “Often in such cases a compromise has been reached in negotiation with the suspect, as apparently it has been here.”
They also have AP photos of Ai’s return home! Check them out below.
The Chinese government continues to detain dissidents even as Ai is released (for now):
Weibo: Activist @zhiyongxu taken away by police over the struggle for equal education rights for students with foreign hukou accounts.
— Andy Yee (@ahkyee) June 22, 2011
Ai spoke to The Guardian:
“I’m back with my family,” Ai told the Guardian. “I am very happy. I’m fine.”
He said he could not comment further on his detention as he had been released on bail, adding “please understand”.
Commentators on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, have already Photoshopped together some satires of Ai’s release, Tweeted by Phil Tinari. There’s this comic, which shows an outraged group of protesters who come up short when Ai walks out of prison unharmed and says he’s fine. And there’s this image of Ai riding a Grass Mud Horse, an internet meme that references getting around the Great Firewall:
Just spoke with Weiwei. He is with his mom and happy he is out.
— aliklay (@aliklay) June 22, 2011
Ai Weiwei arrived at his workshop 20 minutes ago, “appears thinner”:
— Philip Pan (@panphil) June 22, 2011
On Twitter, everyone is talking about texting Ai Weiwei. Louisa Lim texted Ai “Beijing welcomes you,” after the super annoying slogan that took root during the Olympics. The response: “Ha.”
Documentarian Alison Klayman notes that Ai Weiwei was missing for 80 days before his release:
#AiWeiWei was detained for 80 days before release: April 3rd – June 21.
— Ai Weiwei Film (@AWWNeverSorry) June 22, 2011
The Washington Post has a post with some details, plus a list of Ai’s 4 other still missing colleagues that everyone is talking about.
The Guardian has more analysis of the situation:
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.
More confirmation of Ai’s release:
My own text to AWW came back positive.
— Karen Patterson (@KPfromCanada) June 22, 2011
Poor guy’s been in jail for 70-plus days, let’s not barrage him with SMS…
— Philip Tinari (@philiptinari) June 22, 2011
Ai lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan says that as long as the taxes are paid, the criminal charges should be dropped. He also notes that be believes the Xinhua report, that they “wouldn’t possibly play so big of a joke”. Ai Weiwei just texted Liu, so his release is confirmed:
— 刘晓原律师 (@liu_xiaoyuan) June 22, 2011
Translation: At 11, I sent a text to Ai Weiwei, he just responded, he’s out!
- LEAP Magazine editor Phil Tinari says that Ai hasn’t been seen yet, even by closest associates:
Closest acolyte confirms that he hasn’t been seen yet. Let’s hope it’s just a long car ride from wherever they were holding him
— Philip Tinari (@philiptinari) June 22, 2011
According to Xinhua, Ai is still “awaiting legal trial.” The artist may be released, but the charges are certainly not dropped just because he is “willing to pay the taxes.” Tweet via Ai associate Duyan Pili.
— 艳萍 (@duyanpili) June 22, 2011
The Guardian reports that Ai’s family was not contacted about the release:
Ai’s younger brother Ai Dan told the Guardian he had no information on his brother. The artist’s wife and mother could not be reached immediately and Ai’s phone remained switched off.
Earlier in the day, after a rumour that he might be released circulated on websites, his family said police had given them no information on Ai’s case.
The article gave no details of what has happened to several friends and colleagues of Ai, who went missing shortly after him.
Ai’s mother Gao Ying comments:
Ai Weiwei’s mother Gao Ying said she’d only heard about his release through the media, no idea when he’d be back. “We won’t sleep tonight”
— Louisa Lim (@limlouisa) June 22, 2011
This post will be updated as more information is released.