Ai Weiwei’s jailed colleagues are freed
26 Jun 2011

When dissident artist Ai Weiwei was freed last Wednesday, his four associates were also nabbed back in April, were disturbingly absent.

Now it seems that those four — his driver, accountant, assistant and a designer — have also been released, according to both Ai’s sister and a volunteer working with the artist.

Zhang Jinsong, Hu Mingfen, Wen Tao and Liu Zhenggang were all released on bail Thursday and Friday of last week, the two said.

None of the four has as yet spoken to the media and confirmed their release.

Their freedom means one less pressure on Ai.

According to the terms of his bail, he is not allowed to talk about his case, the artist explained. He will also be unlikely to be using any of the tools of his former dissidence — his wit, his art, and Twitter — to needle the government.

No formal charges have been brought against Ai, but Chinese media says he has confessed to tax evasion.

A very good analysis of the Ai case in the context of the Chinese legal system is given by China legal expert Jerome A. Cohen in The Wall Street Journal.

His release, says Cohen, “represents a humiliating climbdown for Beijing… [and] nothing can conceal their profound embarrassment.”

Ai and his four friends may have been freed, but, as Amnesty International reminds us, at least 130 activists, lawyers, bloggers and low level “netizens” are still detained or missing in China.

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