China artist Ai stays quiet after freed on bail

BEIJING,  (Reuters) – The dissident Chinese artist Ai  Weiwei, whose detention in April ignited an international  uproar, was released on bail yesterday under conditions  likely to keep the outspoken critic of Communist Party controls  silent for now.

“I can’t say anything more, because I’m on bail,” Ai told  reporters who had gathered outside his home after his release  was reported by China’s official Xinhua news agency.
His abrupt release came days before Chinese Premier Wen  Jiabao heads to Europe, where Berlin and other capitals have  been critical of Beijing’s secretive detention of Ai and dozens  of other rights advocates, lawyers and dissidents.
But the Chinese government cast its apparent backdown as a  vindication of their controversial case. Xinhua said Ai was  freed “because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as  well as a chronic disease he suffers from”, citing the police.
A company that police said he controlled “was found to have  evaded a huge amount of taxes and intentionally destroyed  accounting documents, police said,” according to Xinhua.

“The decision comes also in consideration of the fact that  Ai has repeatedly said he is willing to pay the taxes he  evaded,” said the report. Family members and supporters have said the outspoken  54-year-old artist was a victim of a crackdown on political  dissent that intensified after overseas Chinese websites in  February called for protests in China to emulate  anti-authoritarian uprisings in the Arab world. China’s courts and police are firmly controlled by the  ruling Communist Party, and it is unusual, but not  unprecedented, for authorities to back away from a potential  prosecution in a high-profile case like this.

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