Two and a half months after he was arrested as he was trying to fly out of Beijing airport, Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei has been released on bail. Meanwhile, he’s still awaiting trial for charges that his studio evaded taxes, a crime to which he reportedly confessed during his detention.
A report published this morning by Chinese news agency Xinhua reads:
BEIJING, June 22 (Xinhua) — The Beijing police department said Wednesday that Ai Weiwei has been released on bail because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from.
The decision comes also in consideration of the fact that Ai has repeatedly said he is willing to pay the taxes he evaded, police said.
The Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., a company Ai controlled, was found to have evaded a huge amount of taxes and intentionally destroyed accounting documents, police said.
Though Ai’s release seemed uncertain at first, the artist confirmed with his lawyer via text message—his last contact with the outside world had been a visit in May with his wife. The veracity of the tax charges remains very questionable—as Hyperallergic notes, this is a strategy the Chinese authorities have used in the past to detain dissidents. Ai’s lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan says that a once the artist pays the back taxes, the charges will be dropped.
The Times has just published AP photos of Ai right after his release in Beijing.