Human Rights Watch: Ai Weiwei Case Reflects Disregard for Rule of Law

Here’s a very good position on Ai Weiwei’s release from Human Rights Watch’s website, posted June 22, 2011, with the subtitle, “Unlawful, Unwarranted Detention, and Onerous Restrictions Loom.” It sums up my sentiments exactly.

The release of the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei on June 22 is a relief for his family, friends and supporters, but leaves troubling unanswered questions about his arrest, detention and conditions of release, Human Rights Watch said today. In particular, Human Rights Watch is concerned about the political nature of his arrest, the conditions under which the police may have extracted a “confession” from him, and possible restrictions on freedoms he faces following his release….

“The Chinese government’s decision to arrest Ai Weiwei was political, and so is his release,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “But it is also an example of how international pressure works, since Beijing was paying a high cost to its reputation for his detention.”

…In the past six months, the Chinese government has disappeared and/or arbitrarily detained dozens of activists, writers, lawyers, and others. Upon their release, several have retreated into uncharacteristic silence and seclusion, leading to concerns that they have been threatened with further abuses if they speak out. At least 10 others who are less well-known than Ai have been victims of enforced disappearances since mid-February. They remain incommunicado, their whereabouts unknown, and thus are at high risk of torture in custody.

“International pressure apparently prodded the Chinese government to conclude that the cost/benefit ratio of continuing to detain Ai Weiwei wasn’t worth it,” Richardson said. “The international community should maintain that same pressure for the release of the many other innocent victims of the Chinese government’s current wave of repression.”

Or as the Daily Beast put it:

Released but not free

Speaking to The Daily Beast/Newsweek by phone, Ai said he has been restricted from traveling outside Beijing or giving substantive interviews to the press for “at least a year.”