China Releases Artist, Activist Ai Weiwei on Bail

BY News Desk  June 22, 2011 at 11:25 AM EDT


Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses in front of his installation called ‘Remembering’ at the ‘Haus der Kunst’ (House of Art) ahead of the exhibition ‘So Sorry’, on October 9, 2009 in Munich, southern Germany. Joerg Koch/AFP/Getty Images.

According to state media reports, China has released activist Ai Weiwei from prison on bail after reportedly admitting to tax evasion. The Xinhua News Agency said poor health played a role in his release and that he demonstrated a “good attitude in confessing his crimes,” the Associated Press reported.

In the past, his family has denied any wrongdoing by the company that manages his artwork.

Ai Weiwei helped designed the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but raised the ire of authorities with his outspoken criticism of the government’s actions and posts on Twitter about others who had been detained.

The NewsHour reported on his arrest at the Beijing airport in April, amid fears that pro-democracy demonstrations in the Arab world could spread further. His arrest sparked international criticism and was portrayed as part of a larger crackdown on dissent.

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

As Larisa Epatko wrote shortly after he was taken into custody, his arrest was a broader test of China’s crackdown on dissidents:

Ai is known internationally as an artist — his work is currently on display at Tate Modern in London — but is also well-known as a critic of the Chinese government, said Kathleen McLaughlin, GlobalPost’s correspondent in Beijing. Ai had been updating on Twitter the government’s crackdown on dissenting voices, she said.

“I think a lot of people thought he was untouchable,” McLaughlin told us by phone. “He certainly didn’t think he was. He knew what the risks were. And I think a lot of other people knew it was just a matter of time before he got in trouble.”

Watch Frontline‘s recent profile of Ai Weiwei:

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.