News / Asia

Chinese Artist’s Wife Sees Him for First Time Since His Detention

Artist Ai Weiwei arrives at the Wenyuhe court to support fellow artist Wu Yuren during his trial in Beijing, November 2010 (file photo)
Artist Ai Weiwei arrives at the Wenyuhe court to support fellow artist Wu Yuren during his trial in Beijing, November 2010 (file photo)

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Stephanie Ho

The family of well-known artist-activist Ai Weiwei says he appears to be in good shape, after they were allowed to see him for the first time since he disappeared into detention more than one month ago.

Wife's visit

Ai Weiwei’s wife Lu Qing saw her husband for only about 15 minutes Sunday.

Liu Xiaoyuan, a lawyer who is close to Ai’s family, says he was told this is the first time any family member has seen the artist-activist.

Liu says Ai's wife told him Ai appears to be physically fine, and that the food he is eating while in detention is also fine. Liu says Ai only talked about personal family matters, but did not discuss any legal matters.

Activist

Ai is one of China’s most internationally famous artists. He also became known for his outspoken activism following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, when he conducted his own investigation into the deaths of thousands of school children. The artist was among critics who blamed official corruption and shoddily-constructed school buildings for exacerbating the threat.

Although Ai was detained more than one month ago, the Chinese government has not officially notified his family about his status or whereabouts. Chinese media say he is being charged with economic crimes, but there are few details.

Information

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu responds to questions during a press briefing in Beijing (File Photo)
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu responds to questions during a press briefing in Beijing (File Photo)

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu has brushed aside foreign reporters’ repeated questions about Ai.

Jiang says she cannot comment on the case because it is still under investigation. In the past, she has urged critics to wait for the results.

In Beijing at the end of April, Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner pointed to the latest crackdown on dissent in China as evidence of what he described as “serious backsliding” on human rights.

“We have been and are very concerned over recent months by reports that dozens of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists like Ai Weiwei, and others have been arrested, detained or in some cases disappeared, with no regard to legal measures.”

Human rights

Posner’s comments came at the end of two days of US-China human rights talks in Beijing.

From left, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, China's Vice Premier Wang Qishan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner take part in a joint meeting of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), Wash
From left, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, China's Vice Premier Wang Qishan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner take part in a joint meeting of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), Wash

Another human rights controversy surfaced last week, during high-level U.S.-China strategic and economic talks in Washington. In an interview with the Atlantic Magazine, about the turmoil in the Middle East, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called China’s human rights record “deplorable,” and said history is not on the side of governments that resist democracy.

The Chinese spokeswoman initially said reporters only partially understood Secretary Clinton’s remarks. One day later, she more bluntly rejected the U.S. official’s comments, saying it is not appropriate to compare China to North African countries that are facing turmoil.

China’s latest crackdown on dissent sharply escalated earlier this year, following the Jasmine Revolution protests that led to leadership changes in the Middle East.

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