China Frees Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei

Posted June 22nd, 2011 at 10:50 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese state media say internationally known artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has been freed after nearly three months in detention.

Xinhua news agency says he was released after confessing to tax evasion and because he suffers from a chronic illness.

Ai, whose works have been exhibited all over the world, was taken into detention in early April. Human rights activists, fellow artists and several foreign governments, including the United States, called for his release.

In the past several months, China has arrested scores of dissidents, rights activists, lawyers and others. It also has clamped down on the news media, including foreign journalists and the Internet, in what many regional analysts say may be an effort to make sure the popular uprisings in the Middle East this year do not spread to China.

Rights activists say Chinese officials often use charges of economic crimes to silence government critics.

This development comes ahead of a high-level U.S.-Chinese diplomatic meeting in Hawaii on Saturday.