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Beijing: One dissident released, another detained

Artist Ai Weiwei arrives to the Wenyuhe court to support fellow artist Wu Yuren during his trial in Beijing, November 2010 (photo/AP)

There's mixed news coming out of Beijing.

Amidst an atmosphere of crackdown -- as foreign journalists face greater restrictions on their activities -- the artist Ai Wei Wei, who famously designed the Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics -- has been detained since Sunday April 3. Ai, who's a fierce critic of the government, was in the Beijing airport about to board a flight to Hong Kong when he was taken into custody.

But meanwhile, the detained artist Wu Yuren, whose case was championed by Ai Wei Wei, has suddently been released on parole after being in jail since last June.

 

Observers say Ai's arrest represents an escalation in the recent government crackdowns, reaching into the higher rungs of Chinese society. They say the atmosphere in China is the strictest it's been since 1989's crackdown in Tiananmen Square. Since Ai was taken into custody on Sunday, police have visited his studio and confiscated computers, hard drives, CDs and notebooks.

Which makes Wu Yuren's release all the more surprising.

A notice on the blog Wu Yuren Incarcerated reads:

In light of the recent movements and decisions by Chinese authorities, this also comes as a bit of shock: Wu Yuren was released into family custody on Sunday April 3rd, 5pm in Huairou District of greater Beijing. He stayed with family in a local peasant hostel and returned to Beijing earlier today. Wu is out on parole until his sentence is decided and handed down, and is under supervision from the court.

 Wu Yuren is in very good health, and is enjoying time with his daughter (who is over the moon!).

In January, Dispatches spoke with Karen Patterson about her husband's case, how difficult it had been to try to find out information about the charges he faced, and whether and how his trial would go ahead.

 Listen to an excerpt from Rick's interview with Karen, from January 2011

Click here to see a video about Ai Wei Wei's work, and a personal statement he made to the TED 2011 Conference last month in Palm Springs, California.

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