No Charge For Detained Artist

Chinese authorities have held Ai Weiwei for months without a formal charge.

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artist-305.jpg Chinese artist Ai Weiwei while under house arrest in Beijing, Nov. 7, 2010.
Chinese authorities have yet to officially charge a prominent Chinese artist more than two months after he was detained, causing great concern to his family members, his mother said Monday.

Ai Weiwei, who has been a vocal critic of the government in the past, was detained by police at Beijing’s airport on April 3 and has been held for 78 days in an undisclosed location.

Beijing has said Ai is currently under investigation for "economic crimes," shrugging off intense international pressure for his release.

“There were two police officers from the Bureau of National Security with whom we had contact. But now even those two refuse to answer our inquiries,” said Gao Ying, Ai’s mother.

On May 16, Chinese authorities permitted Ai’s wife Lu Qing to visit him briefly.

“Lu Qing had contact over the phone with the two police officers who had met with Ai Weiwei before. But in the past several days, none of them would answer her calls. Why? We don’t know,” Gao said.

Gao said that one of the officers in particular worked as a liaison between Ai’s family and the authorities.

“At the beginning, Lu Qing requested a meeting with Ai Weiwei through this officer, and then she got the opportunity.”

“But later, when Lu Qing requested several more visits, this officer always said he would have to report the requests to ‘upper level management.’”

“Who is ‘upper level management?’ Is it the Ministry of Public Security or the Politburo? He never explained and we may never know,” Gao said.

Activist support

Meanwhile, Ai’s detention continues to attract attention from Chinese activists.

In Chengdu, the capital of China’s southwestern Sichuan province, activists recently hung posters urging Ai’s release on downtown public message boards and around college campuses.

“A few days ago, an unknown friend wrote a public notice to look for Ai Weiwei, and then pasted the notice on his shirt,” said Pu Fei, a Sichuan-based netizen.

“He stood in the downtown square and had a picture of him taken. Then he went away.”

“I believe that the intense pressure applied by the authorities to the case of Ai Weiwei will only trigger a strong backlash,” Pu added.

In Hong Kong, about 20 pro-democracy activists demonstrated before the Chinese government representative’s office on Sunday, demanding the release of Ai Weiwei, Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, and other political dissidents.

Earthquake victims

Last month, Ai's supporters released a video to mark the third anniversary of the devastating Sichuan earthquake, a focal point for many of Ai's activities.

Volunteers at Ai's studio released the video in honor of the victims of the May 12, 2008 quake, in which more than 87,000 people were reported dead or missing.

The video consists of harrowing interviews with black-clad parents whose children died in the quake, and who have braved beatings, official harassment, and detentions in an attempt to protest alleged shoddy construction in the quake-hit schools.

Ai posted the dead children's names, according to their Chinese character stroke order, on his Twitter account in time for the second anniversary last year. The Twitter account has more than 80,000 followers.

He also posted online an audio file more than three hours long in which volunteer netizens from all over China read out the names of the children in a somber protest against the government’s refusal to allow any kind of public inquiry into their deaths.

Sichuan authorities have already jailed one activist, writer Tan Zuoren, after he carried out an independent investigation into the children’s deaths and published it online.

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 by Ping Chen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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