China’s artist probed over economic crimes: Report

Ai Weiwei is the latest activist detained in a broad crackdown on dissent.

Updated: Apr 07, 2011, 08:30 AM IST

Beijing: Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, the latest activist detained in a broad crackdown on dissent, is under investigation for suspected economic crimes, state media said on Thursday.

The Xinhua news agency said in a one-paragraph dispatch that police were investigating Ai -- who was detained on Sunday at Beijing`s international airport while trying to board a flight to Hong Kong -- "in accordance with the law".

Beijing police refused to comment on the case.

Ai`s wife Lu Qing said that she still had no official confirmation from police about the investigation, and that she also had no news about where her husband was being detained.

"I am waiting for news," an emotional Lu said in a halting voice.

Police also raided the Beijing studio of the avant-garde artist, 53, who has become known as much for his art as for activist work that frequently takes aim at China`s ruling Communist Party.

Ai, a burly man with a distinctive wispy beard whose work is currently on display in London`s Tate Modern gallery, has repeatedly challenged Chinese authorities.

He has investigated accusations that shoddy construction caused school collapses in a huge 2008 earthquake in southwestern China, and more recently launched a "citizen`s" probe into a Shanghai fire that killed 58 people in November.

At the 2009 trial in Sichuan of another activist, Ai said he was detained and beaten by police who blocked him from testifying on behalf of the accused.

In January, his newly-built Shanghai studio was demolished in apparent retaliation for criticising city policies. A month later, he said his first large solo exhibit in mainland China was cancelled over political sensitivities.

Bureau Report