04/07/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Ai Weiwei imprisoned for "economic crimes"

This is the first public statement after the arrest of the artist. Ai had defended the families of children killed in the Sichuan earthquake, mothers of children killed by melamine-tainted milk, historic sites expropriated and destroyed by urban development plans. Now authorities want to condemn him like a common criminal. His wife, Lu Qing has not yet received any official communication.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - State news agency Xinhua today issued a dispatch that the artist Ai Weiwei, always very critical of the Chinese government, is under investigation for "suspected economic crime". Ai, a globally famous artist, was detained on April 3 as he embarked on a plane to Hong Kong. To date the government had never given any information about him. The charge of "economic crimes" is the first public statement about his fate.

The wife of Ai Weiwei, Lu Qing, says she has yet to receive official notice. Immediately after his arrest, at least 40 policemen entered the artist’s house seizing computers and money.

The U.S., EU and international human rights organizations are calling for the artists’ release and accuse China of treating the artist like a common criminal, hiding their political motives behind the arrest. In the past, even Wei Jingsheng, the "father of democracy" in China, was convicted of illegal financial activities.

Ai has been increasingly critical of the government and the Chinese Communist Party. He is one of the originators of the Bird's Nest stadium, one of the most glorious works of the Beijing Olympics. This did not stop him denouncing corruption and injustice in China, from defending the Sichuan earthquake victims and children killed in the collapse of schools, mothers of children killed by melamine-tainted milk, historic sites subject to destruction by the blind greed of the economy.

His arrest comes at a time of great tension in the country. Following the "jasmine revolution" that has shaken the Middle East and North Africa, the Chinese police are making hundreds of arrests of lawyers, activists and petitioners, guilty of denouncing injustice and corruption in the system and of appreciating the democratic movements in Middle East.
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