Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei, who has been detained by Chinese authorities since early April with still no official charges brought against him, was finally permitted a family visit yesterday, the AP reports. The brief, secretive meeting between Ai and his wife Lu Qing took place at an undisclosed location 43 days after the artist’s April 3 arrest at Beijing’s airport.
Details of the visit are scant, but the pair was watched throughout their encounter (by its organizers, who never identified themselves to Lu) and the terms of the meeting were clearly very restrictive.
“We could not talk about the economic charges or other stuff, mainly about the family and health,” she said. “We were careful, we knew that the deal could be broken at any moment, so we were careful.”
According to Liu Xiaoyuan, a lawyer and friend of Ai’s, the unusual circumstances of the visit suggest that the artist is likely being held on the outskirts of Beijing under residential surveillance. In accordance with Chinese law, Ai could be held for as long as six months in this manner before being charged (as opposed to the 30 days of normal detention permitted), although it’s very unusual for residential surveillance to occur somewhere other than the suspect’s home. Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong-based lawyer with the American human rights group Dui Hua Foundation told the AP:
the police seem to be using residential surveillance as a way to legitimize extended, incommunicado detention outside of a regular detention facility.
Still, Ai was reportedly in good health, contradicting suspicions that he was being tortured. Unfortunately, the visit did not reveal any information regarding the reason for his arrest or a possible release. Meanwhile his first public installation in New York, “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads,” will remain on view through July 15.