State media outlet Xinhua announced Wednesday evening at 10:15 p.m. Beijing time that Ai Weiwei was released on bail following “his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from”. The statement also suggested that he confessed to tax evasion and promised to pay all fines and back-taxes.
Since his detention 80 days ago on April 3rd, Chinese authorities have reportedly been building a case against Ai Weiwei and his studio, FAKE, for destruction of financial documents and tax evasion. Ai Weiwei returned to his studio-home in Caochangdi late at night where his family was waiting inside and an army of reporters waited outside.
The timing of Ai’s release has left many to speculate that it was an effort to boost China’s image in advance of Wen Jiabao’s visit to Europe.
Four of Ai’s associates who also were detained on April 3rd remain in custody. These individuals include independent journalist Wen Tao, Ai’s accountant Hu Mingfen, Ai’s driver and cousin Zhang Jinsong and FAKE designer Liu Zhenggang. Like Ai, none have been formally charged.
originally reported 03/06/2011