After 81 days of imprisonment on charges of taxes evasion, Ai Weiwei was released on bail late last night
“because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from” said an official statement from Xinhua.
According to the NY Times who got to speak to Ai’s sister, his wife Lu Qing got a phone call on Wednesday and was told to go to the police station. She didn’t know what would happen before she arrived and then the police simply announced to her that Ai Weiwei was free to go. Ai arrived home just before midnight and quickly met with his mother.
Looking much thinner than usual he told reporters who’d gathered outside his studio in Caochangdi that he was fine but couldn’t give any comments. “In legal terms, I’m — how do you say? — on bail. So I cannot give any interviews. But I’m fine.”
So although today we have this good news of his release, let’s not forget two things. The first is that Ai’s case is still not over yet. He was released on the agreement that he “repeatedly said he is willing to pay the taxes he evaded” and it’s not clear how much freedom he will actually be permitted from now on in terms of speech and overseas travel. Secondly, that several of Ai’s associates–people who do not have international fame like Ai and remain at a high risk of torture–are still missing including Wen Tao, Hu Mingfen, Liu Zhenggang, and Zhang Jinsong. It’s also been pointed out that fellow dissident and recent Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo has not been shown any leniency by the government despite receiving similar international coverage to Ai. He is still serving out his 11-year sentence for subversion.