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Artist's Wife Asks China to Reject Secret Arrests Bill

Lu Qing, wife of Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei heads to the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau, July 14, 2011.

The wife of renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, whose arrest earlier this year sparked international outrage, is urging Chinese lawmakers to reject legislation that would allow police to hold dissidents in secret locations without informing their families.

Lu Qing said the draft legislation, if enacted, will, in her words, "slow the progress of our civilization." Her comments were posted Wednesday on the Internet on her husband's Google+ account.

In an open letter addressed to a committee of the National People's Conference, China's communist-controlled parliament, Lu said notification of arrest in cases such as Ai Weiwei's is a family's "most basic right." She recalled how her husband's 80-year-old mother spent "fearful days and sleepless nights" following his disappearance in April.

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
Ai was arrested at the height of a crackdown in major Chinese cities that rounded up dozens of lawyers, dissidents and human-rights activists. He was released 81 days later, after authorities said he had confessed to tax evasion. Ai later denied in a published interview that he confessed and said he will continue to speak out against injustice.

Family members and legions of supporters at home and abroad contend Ai was arrested due to his outspoken criticism of Beijing's crackdown on civil liberties, which began in February.

Weeks after his release in June, The Global Times newspaper said Ai appeared relaxed and fit during a six-hour interview at his studio in northeast Beijing. The article described him as "droll," "flirtatious" and "politically feisty."

In that interview and in comments posted on Twitter, the artist denounced the "mental abuse and physical torture" of business colleagues who were arrested along with him.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.