Ai Wei Wei spent nearly 80 days of detention in an unknown location with no formal charges brought against him, he has now been released on bail, having confessed to tax evasion and destroying documents.
Ai Wei Wei is not allowed to comment on his detention or leave home without permission. For the next year, he will be carefully watched, unable to leave Beijing. Ai Wei Wei stated to reporters, “I can’t give any interviews because of the situation that I am in, please understand that.”
Police in Beijing said the artist was released on Wednesday for his “good attitude” and in “confessing” to tax evasions. More likely the release was a response by Chinese authorities to the international criticism that followed Ai’s arrest.
The wording used by Chinese authorities suggests that the government might switch the case against Ai to a civil proceeding, this would allow them to back away gracefully from the situation.
Ai is among dozens of others who have been arrested over the last six months in a crackdown on activists. Four of Ai’s associates remain missing, and are believed to be in secret detention.
Ai, a renowned artist, in recent years had become one of the most outspoken critics of the Chinese Communist Party.
Phelim Kine, an Asia researcher with Human Rights Watch, applauded Ai Wei Wei’s release stating, “The public announcement of his release signals that the Chinese government has had to respond to international pressure and that the cost/benefit ratio of continuing to detain him was no longer tenable… sadly, other Chinese citizens less well-known than Ai Weiwei who have been forcibly disappeared since mid-February remain incommunicado, whereabouts unknown and at high risk of torture.”