Detained Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) was allowed to meet his wife at the weekend, breaking six weeks of isolation from his family, and he told her he had not been mistreated or tortured, Ai’s mother said yesterday.
The brief meeting on Sunday afternoon between Ai and his wife, Lu Qing (路青), followed weeks of international controversy since he was detained at Beijing’s international airport on April 3, igniting an outcry about China’s tightening grip on dissent.
Lu was contacted by police officers and taken to meet her husband “for a short while,” Ai’s mother, Gao Ying (高瑛), said by telephone.
Ai, 53, is being investigated on suspicion of economic crimes, which his family has said are an excuse to silence his criticism of the government. Police have not told his wife or other family members of his whereabouts. His detention prompted heavy criticism in the West and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy is expected to raise the 27-nation bloc’s concerns in Beijing this week.
“The fact that Lu Qing could see him was already a very merciful act by the authorities,” Gao said, adding that Ai did not go into details about the charge against him, -except that “he did not understand it. The rumors that we’ve heard about him being tortured have been too much for us to take, but now seeing is believing. His condition is good.”
Lu did not answer multiple calls made to her mobile phone.
Burly, bearded and blunt, Ai, is one of China’s best-recognized contemporary artists. His career encompasses protests for artistic freedom in 1979, provocative works in the 1990s and a role in designing the Bird’s Nest Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Lu did not meet with Ai at a police station, but rather at a location that she was not familiar with, Gao said. The couple sat across a table, with police officers watching them.
“His face was still red and he still has his beard. He didn’t look too skinny,” Gao said, adding that Ai had told Lu he exercised by walking.
Ai has produced work spanning porcelain sunflower seeds to names of earthquake victims scrolling on a computer screen.
Unlike many of his peers, he has waded into political territory and spoken out on everything from last year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), denounced by authorities, to curbs on the Internet.