April 8th, 2011
03:18 AM GMT
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Beijing, China (CNN) – The Chinese government has confirmed that one of the nation's best known artists, Ai Weiwei, is in custody and is being investigated for "economic crimes."

"It has nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression," said Hong Lei, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a regular briefing with reporters.

This is the first official acknowledgment that Ai is being held after the fierce critic of the Communist regime was taken by police over the weekend at the Beijing airport on his way to Hong Kong.

People who follow the dissident community say it is not uncommon for political activists to be investigated for economic crimes. They say when officials are having trouble building a case against a target, the authorities opt to accuse them of economic crimes such as tax evasion or corruption to discredit them publicly.

Ai's mother told us the suspicions were ridiculous and says her son doesn't have any financial issues. The family hasn't heard from the artist. His lawyer says he has no details of the charges and argues that even if Ai did have financial issues, they should have been handled in a different way.

He says the authorities are not following proper legal procedures despite the ministry's insistence that the investigation is proceeding according to Chinese law.

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Filed under: China

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. beijing

    "authorities opt to accuse them of economic crimes "? Do you think an dissidents should be allowed to commit economic crimes?
    "Ai's mother says her son doesn't have any financial issues" cannot prove nothing. Every crinimals' mother will say the same. If Ai Weiwei were an economic criminal, his mother could well be an accomplice.
    I always feel amazed whenever Chinese garbages got screwed, West always feel the pain.

    April 8, 2011 at 4:00 am |
  2. Where's Ai?

    Free Ai, Now.

    April 8, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  3. TheOldOne

    The tragedy is that whilst China is slowly reducing government intervention in the economy and in people's lives, America is rapidly increasing it. Thus not too far in the future, this scenario might no longer happen in China but it just might in the US.

    April 8, 2011 at 5:39 am |
  4. Al

    Let's not lose sight of the overall picture:

    1. One of Ai's unforgivable crimes, in the view of the Chinese government, is the fact that he sought to collect the names of the thousands of children killed in the Sichuan earthquake as result of shoddy construction of the schools.

    2. When one of his supporters was put on trial for helping to collect names, Ai tried to attend the trial but was beaten about the head by police to such an extent that he had to get emergency surgery to drain the blood from his brain. No policeman was held responsible for the beating.

    3. Earlier this year, the government, without explanation, bulldozed his studio in Shanghai that he recently constructed.

    4. The first government editorial about his detention criticized him for being a "maverick."

    5. Now he's being investigated for "economic crimes," but this is clearly a pre-text to silence him. This is the same government that has continued to imprison a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

    April 8, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  5. signer

    It is non of your businees , just stop your hands in my own conutr, Ai could be a man strunging for the chinese humain rights but when he is playing a role helping foreigners to manipulate the inner affaires in China , he is no longer a consedred as a real chinese, please try to understand the choice of 1 billion people. Dont always believe "I am right, you are wrong", stop using the human rights as a excuse to botheriring another country

    April 8, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  6. Lu Shouldn

    @beijing the only Chinese that get screwed are the common people who are afraid to speak and those who take a stand like Mr Ai Weiwei, not spineless 50 cent "garbages" like you.

    Free Ai Weiwei!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  7. aSunflowerSeed

    CNN should dig into this. Would be huge. Paid Chinese Internet Commenters – Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_Cent_Party
    "The Internet commentator/50 Cent Party's activities were described by Chinese President Hu Jintao as "a new pattern of public-opinion guidance";[28][29] they represent a shift from erasing dissenting opinions to challenging them.[4] In 2010, an American blogger from the Huffington Post claimed that some comments she received on one of her posts were from the 50 Cent Party.[30]"

    April 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  8. drcid777

    Sometimes the most simple truths are the most revealing. Google, Twitter, Facebook and the internet were all created in the U.S. and all played a part in bringing down the dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia. The CCP ruling China tried to crush Google and barely tolerates similar entities. No wonder.

    April 9, 2011 at 3:22 am |
  9. Oladipo Akinyemi Omole

    Eunice Dear,
    It's nice to read about Ai again.You know, I so much like him because we're both in the same age category.In November, I'll be 53 . I first read about him through Kristie on News Stream , then Jaime's China was indeed lucid and intriguing.Precisely, it revealed that Ai's best defense is China's dilemma which is how to contain the spread of information." According to government figures, over 420 million people in China can access the internet through the use of computers and smart phones. Many of the Web users are young, highly educated, influential and affluent - just the sort of people who might be inclined to question authority or sympathize with freedom-seeking activists", according to Jaime.
    Given this fact, it's laughable for Beijing to try to blame dissent on Ai and if they said he has committed any crime at all including the so-called "economic crime", let them be bold enough to file formal charges against him and allow him to procure the services of a competent Counsel. I hasten to add that Beijing can't defend Ai's detention or even indict him so to speak given Jaime's observation and this time, it might be futile for Beijing to try to stage a re-hash of Tianenmen Square.It might be akin to shooting oneself in the foot.That can be really painful isn't it?Cheers and LOL.
    It's me,

    April 10, 2011 at 2:19 am |
  10. Piao Fu

    It's the only way Republicans think could halt China's seemingly unstoppable economic gallop.

    Stir up dissent inside China.

    Democratise, democratise – we want to see American democracry in China!

    But, the big question – is American style of democracry good for China or any other Asian country? For one thing I think American democracy has bankrupted the US government and country!

    The current impossible-to-solve financial mess is paralysing US. Rendering it unable to match China's growing economic might. So we are reallyt looking at a very desparate USA.

    Everyone's walking on a tight rope. Both Chinese and Americans.

    China could be forced to retaliate, against America's interference in Chinese domestic affairs, by selling off all their US securities like US bonds.

    If that happens, it would trigger off a huge avalanche of selloffs by other Asian and emerging countries holding US bonds and financial investments.

    The result would be catastrophic – the final collapse of the US dollar.

    The Republican congress is unwittingly knocking in the final nail, I think.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:48 am |
  11. ThatsNotTrue:[

    So............he deserved it, cnn you did a report of his "art" of middle fingering the forbidden city in beijing which is one of many national monuments in china......and then you changed it when people were more pro governement, well critisizing the US for critisizing china than pro democrocy saying that they aressted 3 others. Now I ask the viewers in general, isn't middle finger + statue of librety + camera = bad combo, any american would be angry too. &&& as an artist myself, reading about his twisted idea of art is enough, the government is reforming on the inside, in the west you say he's a great artist, in the east there are millions of better artists, I'll list one Jay Chou (green hornet) in music.....so his asking for a report and such does not matter because the governement is already looking into it...so he may look like a reformer from the west....but if you think SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO highly of him, I wouldn't mind the chinese governent deporting him to the US, and I am not fully pro government, but he attacked not the communist (not so much now) goverenment of china, but one of he many symbols of china..........that's not a SMART THING TO DO IN ANY COUNTRY.....thus my previous example, and besides if he really wanted to help then donate to educate the kids in rural china or something, &&& he tried running away.
    ps. I really do hope he's shiped to the US, it be fun to see how cnn reports his american art....or the police arresting him when you just critisized china for doing this, and I'm posting this twice just in case the monitor decides to delete it. alright?

    April 24, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  12. icon download

    It was specially registered at a forum to participate in discussion of this questioj.


    September 22, 2012 at 10:49 pm |

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