After nearly three months in jail, Chinese activist Ai Weiwei was freed this week, but that doesn't exactly mean he's 'free.'
An outspoken critic of the China's ruling Communist Party, Ai has to observe a handful of government restrictions as part of his bail conditions. And the impositions raise questions about the Chinese government's repeated claims that his detention was based on economic crimes, Reuters reported.
Notably, Ai is not allowed to speak publicly about his arrest or time in jail. This extends to Twitter and other forms of social media, which Ai has regularly used to share his pro-democracy views with his more than 89,000 followers.
The official terms, which restrict his movement among other things, combined with an unofficial ban on talking to the media, effectively neutralize him as a political activist, while appearing to grant him freedom, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Ai must stay close to home. Though not under house arrest, he cannot leave Beijing for at least a year, and before he travels, he needs to report his whereabouts to them, a source close to Ai's family told Reuters.
The artist who helped design the Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics must also report promptly to court when summoned, and he cannot interfere with witnesses or evidence, according to Hong Lei, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, the first Chinese official to comment on Ai's release.
Hong also dismissed reporters' suggestions that Ai's release was linked to a visit by Premier Wen Jiabao to Britain, Germany, and Hungary, which is slated to begin on Friday. Officials and artists in Germany and Britain have been particularly outspoken in their calling for Ai's release.
We hope relevant countries will respect China's judicial sovereignty, Hong said.
Ai was arrested on April 3 for economic crimes that included tax evasion through a company that handled his art work, and for illegally destroying documents.
Beijing told state media that Ai had been released on bail because of his good attitude in confessing his alleged crimes.