Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Released After 81 Days in Custody

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On Wednesday, Chinese authorities released prominent artist Ai Weiwei on bail. He was behind bars for 81 days. Chinese authorities say he's guilty of tax evasion. But Ai Weiwei's supporters say the detention was a way to quiet Ai, who was often critical of the Chinese regime.

After two-and-a-half months in detention, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been released on bail. Ai was seen briefly outside his Beijing studio. But he declined to answer questions from journalists—apparently a condition of his bail.

[Ai Weiwei, Artist]:
"I cannot give any interviews, please. So sorry."

According to state media, Ai was freed (quote) "because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from."

Ai had been detained on April 3 and later charged with tax evasion. But his supporters say Chinese authorities detained him as part of a larger crackdown on dissidents. It came as activists across China had called for a Jasmine Revolution to emulate the uprisings across the Arab world this spring.

Ai Weiwei's sister Gao Ge spoke to reporters over the phone.

[Gao Ge, Ai Weiwei's Sister]:
"We really don't know why he has been released. That's not for us to say. Only he can answer that himself. But whatever the reason they released him, we are all really happy."

Ai Weiwei has spoken out against the Chinese regime in the past. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, he investigated shoddy construction that led to schools collapsing—and how it was a sometimes linked to official corruption. He often critiqued corruption and abuse of power with his art—and even on his Twitter account.

The United States, Germany and Great Britain had all voiced their concern over Ai's detention.

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