Ai Weiwei has been released on bail
China has released dissident artist Ai Weiwei on bail after he spent nearly three months in prison on charges of tax evasion, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday.
He was seized April 3 while planning to board a plane to Hong Kong and later accused of economic crimes, a move that prompted international condemnation and added to criticism over China’s controversial record on human rights.
“I’m out. I’m with my family and I’m very happy now,” Ai told CNN. “I cannot give you more information because I’m still on bail. I hope you can understand. I have no right to give more information.”
Most famous for designing the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Ai later called for a boycott of the games because he said China was using them as propaganda.
Ai also has accused the Chinese government of trying to silence dissidents.
Beijing police accused him of evading a “huge amount” of taxes, Xinhua reported in May, more than a month after he was detained.
In addition to saying he evaded taxes, investigators also accused Ai’s company of intentionally destroying accounting documents.
No one heard from him for 43 days after his detention began, said his mother, Gao Ying.
His wife, Lu Qing, was allowed to visit him May 15, Ai’s mother said two days after the visit.
Xinhua quoted police May 20 as saying Ai is “living under surveillance” and officials have guaranteed his legal rights, including the right to meet family.
Beijing police told state media that Ai had been released on bail because of his good attitude in confessing his alleged crimes and also said he was suffering from a chronic disease. It is not clear to what disease police were referring.
Ai has also said that he is willing to pay the taxes he allegedly evaded, police told Xinhua.
Relatives and human rights groups said they believe Chinese authorities targeted him because of his irreverent commentary on modern Chinese society. The Chinese government has denied his activism had anything to do with its actions.
His detention was part of a widespread crackdown on dissidents, activists and religious groups across China. Ai’s Beijing studio was raided, and his wife and eight assistants were taken into custody for questioning.
Some commentators said they believe the arrests may have been launched in response to fears over the unrest that has swept the Middle East.
More than 130 activists have been detained in China since February following the government crackdown, according to Amnesty International.