Famed Chinese artist and dissident sends first tweets since arrest

Following what many had taken to be a regime-imposed silence, famed Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has returned to Twitter.

Ai tweeted for the first time this weekend since his April arrest and subsequent June release on the back of public pressure from a number of international bodies.

One of Ai’s bail conditions, upon release from detention, was that he was barred from giving media interviews. At the time of his release he said, “Please understand, however that I cannot accept interviews. I am out on bail for one year, that is all I can say”.

Regarding this media black-out, most speculated that he was also barred from Twitter where he had been very active since joining in 2009. Twitter — through the great firewall — is officially blocked in China, but many Chinese web users still manage to access the site via virtual proxy networks.

Perhaps aware that the Chinese government is watching him, Ai’s first tweets, relative to his usual critical statements, were fairly pedestrian. Ai simply noted a few niceties from, “just saying hello” to, “10 dumplings for lunch, gained 3kgs”.

Ai also tweeted three pictures.

One of the pictures, showing a pair of bare feet on a set of scales showing a weight 97 kilograms, led to one punning follower referring to him as, “Ai Weighweigh”.

Authorities have said the burly avant-garde artist, an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party, was detained for tax-evasion.

Rights groups have, however, said the outspoken 54-year-old, who is known for his fierce criticism of the ruling Communist Party, was detained as part of a wider clampdown on activists launched in February.

The government said he was freed on 22 June because of his “good attitude” in admitting to the charges against him, his willingness to repay taxes he owes and on medical grounds. He has diabetes.

Little has emerged about the conditions of Ai’s three-month incarceration.

Ai recently accepted a job at Berlin University of the Arts.

“I hope to be able to contribute something important in the future,” Ai said at the time, adding however it was “not clear” when he would be able to leave China and go to Berlin.

The Berlin university offered Ai the teaching position soon after his detention, saying it “stood for the freedom of the arts and therefore for the freedom of artists.”

Chinese authorities have charged Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., a design firm they say is “controlled” by Ai, with evading “a huge amount of taxes”. – AFP with additional reporting by Staff Reporter



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