Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that detained Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has been freed on bail. He was released Wednesday evening after pleading guilty to charges of tax evasion, ending a high-profile detention that had become the focus of international criticism regarding China’s human rights record. Formal charges against him had never been announced.
The New York Times reports that the Beijing police department released him, “on bail because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from.” In their English translation, the police report also claims that Ai is willing to pay all taxes he allegedly evaded. The report did not mention any pending charges or trial.
Ai is China’s most renowned artist. His detention prompted international condemnation and criticism of the Chinese government, particularly from other artists and activists that viewed Ai’s arrest as a symbol of China’s recent crackdown on dissent. Earlier this month, British sculptor Anish Kapoor canceled his exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing to protest Ai’s detention.
According to New York Times’ Edward Wong, “bail” is the English translation of the Chinese term “qubao houshen.” “It generally means that prosecutors have decided to drop charges against a suspect on certain conditions, including good behavior,” writes Wong.
BBC reported that Ai’s family heard the news of his release, but has not spoken with him. Ai has not yet picked up his mobile phone, although he has reportedly texted the words: “Yes. Free.”
Last month, Ai’s wife was allowed to visit him 43 days after his arrest for “economic crimes.”