81 Days later
So hes out.
With uncharacteristically few words, Ai Weiwei addressed the waiting hordes of journalists, saying simply Im out, Im happy. And then Im on bail, please understand.
Thinly-veiled code for the conditions of his release that must have been made clear to him. He might not be locked up, but he had better shut up.
All this just ahead of Chinese premiere Wen Jiabaos visit to the UK next week. Could this fluke of timing possibly be an attempt to stem the mounting international criticism that China has received for its treatment of this globally beloved artist? The announcement obviously came as a welcome surprise to us we have been campaigning for his release since the start of his incarceration but lets remember that it comes after more than 80 days in detention, without charge and without access to his lawyer or family. The Chinese governments treatment of him hardly warrants applause.
And lest we forget, Ai Weiwei is the best-known victim of a crackdown that has seen more than 100 bloggers, lawyers and government critics detained, disappeared, harassed or subjected to surveillance, and prosecuted since February this year. One down, dozens to go.
In particular, four of Ai Weiweis associates, who have effectively been disappeared including Wen Tao, Ai Weiweis assistant, who was taken into custody at the same time as Ai. No-one knows where they are or what has happened to them.
I hope that David Cameron is preparing a list of human rights concerns for his meeting with Wen Jiabao on Monday. If he has been able to cross off item number one on the agenda, then he should move straight on up the list. Perhaps Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo is next?
You might recall that in November 2010, David Cameron visited China. At the time of that visit, Ai Weiwei had commented on the obligations of people in positions of power to talk publically about human rights. The artist said:
Many people are under house arrest during this prime ministers visit. We are dealing with a country that has sacrificed a lot of human rights just for the growth of business and anybody who is dealing with China in business has an obligation to emphasise that, otherwise they are committing some kind of crime.
Here here, Weiwei.
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