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'I Can't Say Anything': Ai Weiwei's Release Raises More Questions than Answers

'I Can't Say Anything': Ai Weiwei's Release Raises More Questions than Answers - DER SPIEGEL
The appearance Ai Weiwei made on Thursday morning in front of his studio was a very brief one. The Chinese artist told the waiting journalists that he was well, but that he could not talk about his experiences in recent weeks. The conditions imposed on him by the police prohibited him from doing so, he explained. "I can't say anything, please understand," he said, before disappearing behind the high brick wall around his property. The intelligence officials who usually hang around in front of the studio were not there.

On Wednesday evening, Ai, who is an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, was unexpectedly released from detention. He had to pay bail but did not appear before a judge. On April 3, police detained Ai at Beijing airport and held him at an undisclosed location. Relatives and lawyers were kept in the dark about Ai's fate for a long time before it was revealed that the authorities were accusing the artist's company, "Fake Cultural Development," of evading taxes on a "large scale."

Beijing police did not follow correct procedures in the case, ignoring deadlines and bending the rules. It is unclear whether such a long period of detention without access to a lawyer is even permissible under Chinese law in the case of an alleged tax offense. At the very least, it seems disproportionate under the circumstances....

By kidnapping Ai, the Communist Party certainly managed to achieve one thing: It has deeply intimidated human rights activists. Dozens of activists have suffered similar fates to Ai in recent months, being abducted, interrogated or threatened. According to the latest information, the civil rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong has been missing again since Wednesday. Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, is still under house arrest. The blind civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng was recently beaten in his own home, according to his wife. Since his release from prison last September, he and his family have been harassed and kept isolated from the outside world.

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