As he was flying out of Beijing airport on Sunday dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was taken into police custody along with his wife (she was released after an interrogation), their home searched and documents seized. For four days the Chinese authorities denied having any knowledge of Ai’s whereabouts, and then this morning a quickly-removed article on the Xinhua wire service revealed that he’s been charged “economic crimes.”
The full wire announcement read: “Police authorities said late Wednesday they are investigating Ai Weiwei for suspected economic crimes in accordance with the law,” though Ai’s lawyer has noted that what specific crimes those might be remains a mystery.
The accusation comes as a surprise since Ai seemed to have been picked up as the latest in a huge swath of arrests aimed at squashing efforts to organize massive protests in China in the vein of those held in the Middle East in the past months. Ai had been very active among this group, even keeping a tally of colleagues who’ve been arrested and detained.
Meanwhile plans for Ai’s first major public installation in New York, a set of 12 giant animal head sculptures going up around the fountain outside the Plaza Hotel on May 2, are still continuing on schedule. Hopefully by then Ai will have been released and cleared for travel. (Hyperallergic)