Over a month after police detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei for alleged "economic crimes" amidst a broader government crackdown against dissent, Chinese authorities allowed Ai's wife, Lu Qing, to visit him for the first time at an undisclosed location on Sunday, affording us our first fleeting glimpse into the dissident's condition and the circumstances of his arrest. Lu told the AP that during her 20-minute visit, Ai "seemed conflicted, contained, his face was tense. I could see redness in his eyes. It was obvious that without freedom to express himself he was not behaving naturally even with me." Lu, who was only able to ask health-related questions, learned that her husband, who suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, has his blood pressure checked seven times a day and is eating and sleeping well. The artist still had his beard, wasn't handcuffed, and was wearing his own clothes.
Liu Xiaoyuan, a lawyer and friend of Ai's, speculates that Chinese authorities, who have yet to charge Ai with a crime, are keeping the artist under residential surveillance outside Beijing, while Joshua Rosenzweig with the U.S. human rights group Dui Hua Foundation told the AP that "the police seem to be using residential surveillance as a way to legitimize extended, incommunicado detention outside of a regular detention facility." According to the BBC, Lu believes the location where she met her husband was used only for the meeting. The BBC also reports that police warned Ai's family not to discuss the visit with the media because it could "be bad for Mr Ai's case"--a warning the family has defied.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.