Ai Weiwei has been released after eleven weeks of detention. Ai's arrest prompted protests around the world and gave a prominent face to the ongoing crackdown in China, the worst in 20 years.
Ai's release does not signal an end to the current wave of repression. Other prominent figures continue to face illegal harassment and persecution.
Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, is under house arrest though not charged with any offence. Blind civil rights campaigner Chen Guangcheng from Shandong was beaten up in his own home very recently.
Ai himself faces heavy restrictions on his movements and public statements under the conditions of his 12-month bail period. He has been forced by his interrogators to 'agree' not to give press interviews. Several of Ai's less famous associates who were 'disappeared' by the authorities at around the same time remain in detention.
According to state media, Ai was released "because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes" and due to an unspecified "chronic illness". After more than two months in detention, under conditions that violate China's laws, refused access to family and lawyers, Ai has still not been formally charged. [Beijing tax authorities are seeking from him more than £1 million in 'unpaid taxes' and fines.]
What happens to Ai now will depend on whether he respects the police gagging order. He may possibly be allowed to go into exile at a later date, should he choose to, something the Chinese authorities sometimes prefer in such cases.
For the time being, however, he finds himself in the same situation as tainted milk campaigner Zhao Lianhai, who was released from prison on medical grounds after massive protests, especially in Hong Kong. Zhao is also monitored constantly by police and has been threatened with re-arrest if he makes statements that overstep the boundaries set by the authorities.
When it comes to Western companies and governments, the Chinese regime knows full well that they are more concerned about trade and economic ties than repression and human rights in China.
With China stepping up to buy European government debt from countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal - which politicians hope may help forestall a new banking crisis - any government-level protests have been muted.
Those groups that have protested the detention of Ai Weiwei and other regime critics must maintain and step up their activities, placing no confidence in capitalist governments or business leaders to support or deliver these protests. We demand the immediate release of all political prisoners in China and an end to state repression.
Chinaworker.info and the supporters of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI, see page 9), including Socialist Action in Hong Kong, campaign for full democratic rights in China and internationally, and an end to one-party dictatorship.
The above article can be read in full on www.chinaworker.info here
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