(New York) – 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.
Ai’s release on bail was followed by a statement from Xinhua, the official government news agency, saying he had been released because of his “good attitude in confessing his crimes” and because he suffers from an unspecified chronic disease. The statement added that Ai’s release resulted from consideration of the fact that he had repeatedly said he is willing to pay the taxes that the government alleges that he has evaded.
“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.”