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US Calls on Beijing to Release Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in Beijing (File Photo - November 17, 2010)

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in Beijing (File Photo - November 17, 2010)

The United States on Monday urged China to immediately release Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who was detained in Beijing Sunday as he attempted to board a plane to Hong Kong. Ai's wife says police refused to tell her where her husband is being held.

State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner expressed concern about the celebrated artist's detention. "The detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei is inconsistent with the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Chinese citizens, including China's commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we urge the Chinese government to release him immediately," he said.

Ai's wife, Lu Qing, told reporters that police provided no explanation for her husband's detention and that they refused to tell her where he is being held.
Ai is one of China's best known modern artists. He helped design the Bird's Nest stadium that came to symbolize the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Ai also is an activist blogger and critic of Chinese government policies. He started a movement to gather the names of thousands of children who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, calling attention to the poorly maintained schools that collapsed on the students. Chinese police severely beat Ai for his support of the victims.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell is expected to visit Beijing on April 7 for meetings with senior government officials. Spokesman Mark Toner said human rights are always a topic of conversation between the United States and China.

"We obviously continue to be deeply concerned by the trend of forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, arrests and convictions of rights activists for exercising their internationally recognized human rights, including freedom of expression and movement," he said.

Chinese police raided Ai's Beijing studio on Sunday, detaining eight of his assistants. They returned to work Monday but said they had no information about Ai's condition or location.
Ai has an exhibition at the Tate Modern art gallery in London. The museum issued a statement on its website Monday saying it is dismayed by developments that threaten Ai's right to speak freely as an artist.