After being imprisoned for three months in a Chinese prison, artist-activist Ai Weiwei has been released on bail.
Originally detained while trying to board his April 3rd flight for Hong Kong, Ai was denied contact with his family or lawyer during his incarceration. Mr. Ai was held on charges of tax evasion for his company, The Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., which the authorities accused of "evad[ing] a huge amount of taxes and intentionally destroyed accounting documents."
Though he was released for admitting to tax evasion, his family believes that his outspoken criticism of the Chinese state was the real reason for his arrest and at this moment still maintains that he is innocent. Mr. Ai was released from custody after agreeing to pay the taxes he owed and was most likely expedited due to medical reasons as he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.
Nicholar Bequelin, Asia reseacher for Human Rights Watch, told The Guardian: "His detention was political and his release is political. It is the result of a huge domestic and international outcry that forced the government to this resolution … I think Beijing realized how damaging it was to hold China's most famous artist in detention."
When journalists attempted to interview Ai (below), he responded, “I am out on bail for one year, that is all I can say,” implying that part of the conditions of his release were that he not take interviews.
The art community rallied around Ai Weiwei, attempting to get him released. Before he was released, several artists, including Anish Kapoor, showed solidarity for his cause by canceling their shows in China. Kapoor said of the release, "While I am thankful that he has been released, I do not think that artists should present their work in China until the situation has been resolved.” Protests held in Hong Kong showed solidarity with the artist and at the Hong Kong Art Fair earlier this month exhibitions alluded to the imprisonment of the artist and several were shut down. The Tate Gallery in London which implored China to, "Free Ai Weiwei," in large black letters across its facade (and recently re-installed his sunflower seeds exhibit), and a Cuban artist in New York projected Ai's face onto the Chinese consulate one night. Additionally, the Guggenheim hosted a petition which garnered over 140,000 signatures. The petition itself has also been in the news for being attacked by Chinese hackers, which lead the U.S. State Department to confront China's government about the issue.
Ai Weiwei is a celebrated artist whose work addressing social and political concerns has frequently met with controversy, including his recent installation of 100 million sunflower seeds at Tate Modern and his design for the "Birds Nest" stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.