China permits Ai Weiwei to meet his wife


CHINESE POLICE have allowed controversial artist Ai Weiwei to meet his wife for the first time after more than 40 days in detention, in a case that has prompted widespread criticism of China’s human rights record.

Lu Qing was taken by police to meet her husband on Sunday afternoon at an unspecified location. Mr Ai’s lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said the 53-year-old artist was in good health and did not appear to have been beaten or tortured.

Western governments have said the arrest of Mr Ai, who was involved in designing the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is a sign that China’s human rights situation is deteriorating. Mr Ai, who is reportedly under investigation for what have been broadly referred to as economic crimes, spent much of the meeting asking after the health of his mother, Gao Ying, who is 78 years old.

He has not been seen since he was taken away by state security at Beijing airport on April 3rd en route to Hong Kong.

One of his most famous works is a photograph of him giving the middle finger to the Forbidden City at Beijing’s heart, and it was always a question of when, rather than if, Mr Ai would fall foul of the authorities. His disappearance came during a major security operation by China that has seen lawyers, writers and artists detained amid official concerns over unrest, inspired by violent protests in the Arab world, spreading to the world’s most populous nation.

Among his actions had been a list on social network Twitter of the dozens of bloggers, writers and other intellectuals who were detained or arrested in the campaign before he was taken away.

There are very few dissidents left at large as the security crackdown has all but smothered dissent.

Some of those taken away have been charged, some released, many are simply missing. There are reports that many of them were beaten in custody.

No formal arrest warrant has been issued for Mr Ai.

He is being held under “residential surveillance”, a term that allows authorities to postpone issuing a formal arrest warrant, because in theory the suspect is being held under “house arrest” at a residence decided by the police.

There are fears Mr Ai’s work criticising the Communist Party means he could suffer a similar fate to Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was jailed for 11 years for “inciting subversion of state power”.

The foreign ministry said his case has “nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression”, saying that the country’s art scene was booming and other countries should not interfere in China’s business. It looks increasingly like the government will use tax evasion or other economic crimes to silence him.

He is an internationally respected artist, showing at top galleries such as London’s Tate Modern and the Haus der Kunst in Munich. The international art community has called for his release.