Ai Weiwei Gains Conditional Release
Ai Weiwei Released (NTD Television)
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was released from prison on Wednesday after mounting
international condemnation for his detention.
The outspoken critic of the
Chinese communist regime who is famous for helping design Beijing’s Bird Nest stadium for the 2008
Olympics returned home late on Wednesday, but
is subject as conditions of his release to travel restrictions and a media gag
“I’m sorry I can’t [talk], I am on probation, please understand,”
Ai said in English outside his suburban Beijing home Wednesday night, according
to NTD Television.
Ai had been detained without charge since April 3 amid
a crackdown on dissidents and critics of China’s authoritarian rule during a
recent spate of protests inspired by the “Arab Spring” uprisings.
and officials, however, publicly accused the artist-activist of tax evasion,
considered by most human rights experts and China watchers to be trumped-up
State-run Xinhua News
Agency reported that Ai was released because of his “good attitude in confessing
his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from,” but Ai had not been
formally charged with any crime. Human Rights in China reported in April that Ai
was tortured into confessing.
Ai was freed on the Chinese equivalent of
bail called qubao houshen, a legal procedure Chinese authorities
commonly save for cases they tacitly concede to be unfit for
“Qubao houshen (QBHS) 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,” China scholar and
New York University law professor Jerome A.
Cohen wrote on the U.S. Asia Law Institute’s website.
Legal and human
rights experts attributed Ai’s release to unrelenting pressure from Ai’s artist
connections and pressure from the international community.
to grant QBHS has little to do with the rule of law, but everything to do with
the untrammeled exercise of discretion
enjoyed by Chinese authorities. This outcome makes clear that great
international public pressure plus significant domestic and personal
[connections] can be a potent combination even in the case of someone who went
further than anyone before him in openly thumbing his nose … at the Communist
regime,” wrote Cohen.
Ai’s sudden release comes just ahead of Chinese
premier Wen Jiabao’s trip to the United Kingdom and Germany next week, where Ai
“has strong professional ties and public support,” Amnesty International
“His release on bail can be seen as a tokenistic move by the
government to deflect mounting criticism,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty
International’s deputy director for the Asia Pacific, in a statement.
The U.S. State Department said Wednesday afternoon it could not immediately
verify Ai’s release, but were working to confirm the reports.
long called for his release and we continue
to urge for … the release of all persons who’ve been detained for exercising
their internationally recognized human rights,” State Department Deputy
Spokesman Mark Toner said in a press briefing.
President of the European
Parliament Jerzy Buzek said he “welcome[s] the release on bail of Ai Weiwei” and
called it “long overdue.”
“His detention was both unjustifiable and
unacceptable. … The European Parliament supports his peaceful actions and
initiatives in favor of democratic reforms and the protection of human rights,”
said Buzek, a former veteran of the Solidarity trade union movement and
anti-communist activist from Poland.
U.S. Congressman Chris Smith
(R-N.J.), who has previously served as chairman of the Foreign Affairs’
Subcommittee on Human Rights, told the AFP news agency that reports of Ai’s
release “[are] welcome” but that “it is extremely concerning that he reportedly
‘confessed his crimes.’”
Ai’s star talent, his family history and global support from the artistic
community helped a lot.
the [People’s Republic of China] are rarely—if ever—made voluntarily and without
coercion,” he said.
While Ai Weiwei’s fame and connections played a
significant role in securing his release from prison, other artist-activists
like him and more than 130 others rounded up in a Chinese clampdown on dissent
earlier this year are still jailed.
“Undoubtedly, Ai’s star talent, his
family history and global support from the artistic community helped a lot,”
Those not as well known or who do not carry Ai’s clout
may not be advocated for in the same manner that helped see Ai released. Four of
Ai’s friends and colleagues—his assistant Wen Tao, his driver Zhang Jingsong,
his accountant Hu Mingfen, and fellow designer Liu Zhenggang—who “disappeared
into secret detention” are still missing, Amnesty International said.
is vital that the international outcry over Ai Weiwei be extended to those
activists still languishing in secret detention or charged with inciting
subversion,” Amnesty’s Baber said.