Citizenship

Ai Weiwei and the search for justice

From Christopher Bodeen, “Artist Ai Weiwei released by China, says he’s fine,” Associated Press (6/22/2011):

Renowned artist Ai Weiwei, the most high-profile target of a sweeping crackdown on activists in China, returned home late Wednesday after nearly three months in detention. Looking tired and thinner, he said the conditions of his release meant he could not talk more.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Ai confessed to tax evasion, accusations his family had long denied and which activists had denounced as a false premise for detaining him….

“I’m sorry I can’t (talk), I am on probation, please understand,” Ai said, speaking in English….

…Jerome Cohen, a top expert on Chinese law at New York University… said Ai was most likely released on a form of bail that restricts suspects’ movements to their home city for one year. However, authorities can reopen the case at any time, meaning Ai faces the ever-present threat of being detained again on the same accusations….

“It’s quite a step back for the regime. It demonstrates the utility of large amounts of international attention, plus international connections that had been sufficient to keep him out of jail before,” he said.

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.

A relief. But not justice.

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