Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been granted a visit by his wife and sister. The contact took place over the weekend, it is the first contact with the outside world to take place since his arrest more than 43 days ago. Mr Ai is said to be under investigation for suspected “economic crimes”.The artist’s wife told the BBC that she was summoned to a police station and taken to another location where she was allowed a brief meeting with her husband. She does not know the exact location and thinks it was only used only for the meeting. she said she did not believe her husband was being held at the location although he is reportedly in good health. However the meeting was very brief, she said, and there were many other people present, some of them taking notes, so she was afraid to talk much more with her husband. China’s foreign ministry has insisted that Mr Ai’s case has “nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression”.
When Mr Ai was arrested on the 3 April while attempting to board a plane for Hong Kong several key factors were ignored by the Chinese authorities. These include the understanding that his profile is so high in the west that every move he makes is followed closely by the international media. Social networking has also made a difference to his profile and Weiwei generates pages upon pages of tweets and facebook alerts every day.
The question still remains, what are the charges against him? Is he being held for income tax evasion or the depiction of obscene, satirical imagery in his paintings and drawings? We know the latter has enraged the Communist Party for quite sometime. Rights activists and journalists in Hong Kong say one of Ai’s visual critiques of the party crossed the censorship line. The work in question shows the artist naked except for a toy horse concealing his genitals. The caption has a double meaning in Chinese, so millions of internet users have seen the six characters interpreted as: “F . . . k your mother ie. the party central committee.” It was also reported in the Wen Wei Po newspaper, an off shoot of China’s ruling communist party that Weiwei was a bigamist. The allegation is that Mr Ai’s name appears on the birth certificate of a child he is said to have had with a woman who is not his wife. Online comments by members of Beijing’s artist and dissident communities suggested that Mr Ai is the father of the child, but there is no proof that he was ever married to the mother, hence Bigamy is not possible. He was also suspected of spreading “pornography” on the internet. When analyzed they were actually photos of Mr Ai used for promoting his exhibitions. The positive outcome of this reported visit comes as a relief to the many international supporters of the Artist. Mr.Ai’s exhibitions continue at the Lisson Gallery and Somerset house until July.
The family have been told by police not to discuss the visit with the media as they were told it could “be bad for Mr Ai’s case”.