At around 11:30 PM EST on May 15, the AP reported that detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was allowed a family visit with his wife Lu Qing at an undisclosed location. The artist is reportedly in good health.

The AP writes,

The sister of detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei says he’s been allowed his first family visit in 43 days. Beijing police took Ai’s wife, Lu Qing, to an undisclosed location Sunday night where she was able to see and talk briefly with Ai. His sister Gao Ge says Lu reported that Ai seemed healthy and was being given access to medication that he needs.

Though the Chinese government still has not given an official reason or charge for Ai’s arrest, the artist remains in tightly restricted custody. No one knows where he is being held or for how long it might be.

That Ai appears to be in good health is great to hear. The reports that Ai was being tortured that have gained momentum in the past week (though they originally cropped up weeks ago) seem to be largely false.

Ai remains in custody, and that’s all we’re sure of. The fact that the artist has been allowed to see his family could mean that the Chinese government is getting ready to resolve the situation in some way, but the gesture could just as easily be a way to placate an international community that has been consistently calling for the artist’s release.

We’ll update this post with more information when it comes.


The AP has updated their article with information from Ai’s lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan and further quotes from Ai’s wife Lu Qing, who was the one person to meet him in the family visit. Lu describes the artist:

The burly, bearded 53-year-old appeared conflicted and his eyes were puffy when his wife Lu Qing was allowed to visit him Sunday, though he seemed healthy, Lu told The Associated Press … “He has changed. His mood and demeanor are so different from the simple and spontaneous Ai Weiwei I know,” Lu said Monday. “It was obvious that without freedom to express himself he was not behaving naturally even with me.”

Liu Xiaoyuan says that given the nature of the artist’s family visit, it’s probable that he is being held in residential surveillance in a Beijing suburb. “The police seem to be using residential surveillance as a way to legitimize extended, incommunicado detention outside of a regular detention facility,” says Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong-based research manager for the U.S. human rights group Dui Hua Foundation.

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly, Kill Screen, Creators...

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