Ai Out But Not Free

The Chinese authorities may not have enough evidence to go public about the outspoken government critic's alleged crimes.

2011-06-24
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china-weiwei-press-305.gif Ai Weiwei (R) speaks to reporters outside his studio in Beijing, June 23, 2011.
AFP

Chinese artist and social critic Ai Weiwei says he is still under considerable restrictions at his Beijing home following his release from detention pending trial for "tax evasion."

"I can't give any interviews to the media," Ai said from his Beijing home shortly after his release. "I can't talk about anything."

Fellow activist and Beijing-based rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said releasing someone on bail was a tactic used by Chinese police if they had failed to find enough evidence to convict a suspect.

He said that meant Ai was not yet in the clear with the Chinese authorities.

"Some police departments will let someone out on bail, pending trial, if they still need to do some investigating," Liu said. "It doesn't affect the case, and it says that the case will still proceed."

He said the lack of transparency surrounding Ai's case suggested that the government didn't have enough evidence to go public about his alleged crimes.

"It's hard to tell what the final outcome will be at this stage," Liu said.

He said Ai, under order from the police, state prosecution service and court, would have had to pay bail and sign a release document pledging not to abscond, and not to do anything that would obstruct the course of the investigation or the trial proceedings.

He said the conditions of Ai's bail set considerable limits on his personal freedom.

Banned

Chinese officials have warned that Ai is still under investigation and is banned from leaving his "area of residence."

While rights activists welcomed Ai's release on Wednesday after 80 days of detention, they say the manner of his detention was arbitrary and part of a broader campaign to silence dissent.

Beijing released Ai on bail pending trial for "economic crimes," having secured a promise from him to repay a large sum of money the government says was due in taxes, official media reported.

Ai had been investigated "according to law" under charges of suspected economic crimes, and the Beijing Fake Cultural Development Co., which he controls, had been found to have engaged in deliberate tax evasion amounting to very large sums, Xinhua news agency said.

It said the decision was made "in view of the fact that Ai Weiwei confessed his crime, showed a good attitude, and of the fact that he suffers from chronic illness, and considering that he has offered many times of his own accord to pay back the money owed."

Ai was named recently by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

His detention has drawn criticism from the United States, Australia, Britain, France, and Germany, as well as from Amnesty International and other international rights groups.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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