Ai Weiwei Released but Journalist and Associates Still Missing

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the release on bail of celebrated artist Ai Weiwei after 81 days in detention, but remains deeply concerned that associates and colleagues of the artist including former journalist Wen Tao remain missing.


Ai was released in the evening of June 22 and returned home to his family in Beijing. When questioned by the media, the artist made brief comments on his health and well-being before he said he could not comment any further because he was on bail.


State-owned Xinhua News Agency reported on June 22 that Ai was released on bail because of his “good attitude in confessing his crimes” and because he is suffering from a chronic disease.


It is alleged that the Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, a company linked to Ai, avoided paying tax and intentionally destroyed accounting documents, the Xinhua report said, adding that Ai repeatedly told the authorities he is “willing to pay the taxes he evaded and intentionally destroyed accounting documents”.


“The IFJ has concerns that Ai was detained and apparently admitted his guilt in an investigation that lacked transparency or a fair trial,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.


“The lack of transparency in this case prompts deep concerns for the well-being of Wen Tao and others connected with Ai, who have been detained and whose whereabouts are unknown.”


Global Times English journalist Wen Tao, 38, was forced by the newspaper’s editor-in-chief to leave the newspaper after the journalist wrote articles that told of Ai’s questioning of local authorities around the transparency of information on the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Global Times is associated with the state-owned People’s Daily newspaper.


Wen was reported missing on April 3, the same day that Ai was detained by immigration officers at Beijing international airport as the artist was about to depart for Hong Kong.


The other missing people include accountant Xu Mingfen, designer Liu Zhenggang, and Ai’s cousin Zhang Jingsong, who with Wen were all employed by Beijing Fake Cultural Development. They have all been detained for more than two months and their whereabouts are unknown.


The IFJ urges the authorities of China to immediately and unconditionally release Wen, Xu, Liu and Zhang and lift bail provisions that apply to Ai.


The IFJ also commends international leaders and organisations which have campaigned to secure Ai’s release, and encourages the continuation of this campaign for others who remain missing.


For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919


The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries


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