Just days after Ai Weiwei’s release from prison, prominent activist Hu Jia and the four individuals who’d been taken away on account of their relationships to the artist Ai Weiwei have been released. Hu was released after completing a three and half year sentence for state subversion. His wife, Zeng Jinyan confirmed that he arrived home at 2:40am today through her Twitter account.
As for the others Hu Mingfen, Ai’s accountant, and Liu Zhenggang, a designer in Ai’s studio, both were suddenly released Thursday. Ai’s driver, Zhang Jinsong, was bailed out by Ai’s mother on Thursday too. Journalist Wen Tao who was seized the same day as Ai came out a day after. The charges against these four remain unknown save for Zhang who was indicted with “reselling foreign exchange for profiteering.” So far, they remain silent on their imprisonment and in all likelihood, fearful of repercussions for talking.
Many point out that these releases may not be coincidental. Ai’s release came the night before Wen Jiabao’s trip to Hungary, Germany, and the UK where he has a significant art and political following. European leaders including the EU’s foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle have pledged to press China on human rights issues, including the conditions of their releases.
According to Amnesty International, more than 130 activists have been detained in China since the Middle Eastern uprisings took place–the harshest crackdown on dissent the country has seen in many years.