News / Asia

Ai Weiwei Called 'Politically Feisty' in First Post-Release Interview

Activist artist Ai Weiwei gestures while speaking to journalists gathered outside his home in Beijing, June 23, 2011
Activist artist Ai Weiwei gestures while speaking to journalists gathered outside his home in Beijing, June 23, 2011

Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei denies that he confessed to tax evasion and says he will continue to speak out against injustice in his first published interview since being released on bail in June.

The internationally renowned artist also describes his sense of isolation during almost three months of detention following his arrest at Beijing's airport in early April.

The Global Times newspaper says Ai appeared relaxed and fit during the six-hour interview at his studio in northeast Beijing. The article, appearing Wednesday, describes him as "droll," "flirtatious" and "politically feisty."

The interview appeared Wednesday, a day after Ai broke a two-month silence with a series of Twitter postings in which he denounced the "mental abuse and physical torture" of business colleagues who were arrested along with him.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported at the time of Ai's release that he had confessed to evading taxes and agreed to repay what he owes. But Ai told Global Times he had not paid attention to his company's financial situation and that he agreed only to accept his punishment if it is proven that he broke the law.

Ai also told the newspaper that he will "never avoid politics" because nobody can. He says he wants a "scientific and democratic political system" but has never sought to change the form of China's government. He adds that he will "never stop fighting injustice."

Ai's arrest came in the midst of a Chinese crackdown on dissidents that saw dozens of activists and lawyers rounded up just as pro-democracy uprisings were sweeping through the Middle East. Western governments and human rights groups condemned the arrest, charging that it was a politically motivated response to Ai's outspoken criticism of government actions.

The artist is still restricted from leaving Beijing and is understood to be barred from speaking to reporters. It is not clear what arrangements were made to authorize the interview with Global Times, which is affiliated with China's ruling Communist Party.

However in a series of tweets on Tuesday, Ai protested the treatment in detention of his accountant and studio assistants, who were also arrested in April. He also urged followers to speak out on behalf of two other dissidents, human rights activist Wang Lihong and writer Ran Yunfei.

In the Global Times interview, Ai says he still surfs the Internet for news but is spending more time with his family, including his 2-year-old son.

While reluctant to discuss his period of detention, he tells the newspaper he was cut off from the outside world and had no idea when he might be released. He says he felt like he had fallen heavily into a collapsed pit.

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