Official media have given two different reasons for the arrest of artist Ai Weiwei (pictured), though authorities have not issued any statement as yet. (File Photo/CFP)
Chinese police are investigating artist and activist Ai Weiwei for "suspected economic crimes," the state-run Xinhua news agency announced briefly on Thursday (Apr. 7) before the short report, published only on Xinhua's English-language site, was subsequently removed.
The artist's mother meanwhile has posted a missing person report on the internet, publicly asking authoritiies where her son has been taken.
Ai Weiwei was taken into custody as he prepared to travel to Hong Kong en route to Taiwan at Beijing airport on Sunday (Apr. 3). His friend as well as former Global Times reporter Wen Tao was also arrested by police on the same day. The wherabouts of both remains unkown to date and authorities have not yet offered a reason for their arrest.
Global Times on Wednesday (Apr. 6) blasted western countries who have called for Ai's release, including the United States and European Union, saying these countries are interfering in China's political and legal framework. It also said "reportedly Ai Weiwei's 'procedure was incomplete' when he was going to Taiwan through Hong Kong," ans well as noting that Ai is such an avant-garde and maverick artist that he would inevitably break the law some day. Yet this suggestion was not acceptable for many netizens who left messages following the report.
Many believe the reason why Ai was detained is not as has been reported by Xinhua and Global Times, implying the authorities have fabricated a crime in order to frame the artist.
Ten days before Ai's arrest, he conducted an interview with American journalist Dan Rather in which he expressed concerns about the threat to his life from authorities. Ai said, "I'm quite weak you know. I think you only can bear that much. I mean, you constantly ask yourself if physically or mentally you are strong enough for that. I have to always everyday ask myself how long can I last if I am in extreme conditions such as jail."
Jon Huntsman, the outgoing American ambassador to China, on Apr. 6 criticized Beijing's human rights record, saying Ai has been unfairly detained.
"The United States will never stop supporting human rights because we believe in the fundamental struggle for human dignity and justice wherever it may occur," Huntsman said.
Gao Ying, Ai's mother, meanwhile told Reuters, "I think they detained him for a reason. If they think they have something it's certainly a fixed case, an injustice. I think they'll concoct some things against him."
Gao posted a missing person report on the internet on Tuesday evening (Apr. 5) as a way to question police as to her son's whereabouts.
When asked the driving force of Ai's struggle in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Gao cited her son as saying, "What is the point of life? The point is to do something good." If nobody says anything, China as a country and society will not be able to develop further, Ai said.
Liu Xiaoyuan, Ai's consultant lawyer, also called for authoriies to free the artist in an interview with the BBC. According to Chinese law, authorities should inform Ai's family within 48 hours if his arrest at the airport is not an official detention. However, there has been no any explanation from the police so far.
That Ai has been taken away for more than four days is very unusual, Liu said.
Ai Weiwei 艾未未
Gao Ying 高瑛
Liu Xiaoyuan 劉曉原