Beijing police question artist Ai Weiwei's wife

AP News
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Posted: Nov 29, 2011 8:27 AM
Beijing police question artist Ai Weiwei's wife

Ai Weiwei's wife said Chinese police told her she is a suspect in an unspecified criminal case while questioning her for several hours Tuesday in what appears to be a growing campaign against the outspoken artist and his supporters.

Police asked her numerous questions about the design company that manages Ai's art career as well as other subjects without explaining the accusations against her, Lu Qing told The Associated Press by telephone after she was released.

Authorities are demanding Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd. pay 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) in back taxes and fines in an ongoing tax evasion case Ai is contesting.

Lu's three-hour questioning comes about a week after police also began investigating Ai's assistant for allegedly spreading pornography online. That investigation appears to revive an allegation reportedly made against Ai when he was detained for three months earlier this year during an overall crackdown on dissent.

Lu said four officers came to her home in suburban Beijing and demanded she come with them to a police station.

"They would not say what crime I had committed or give me other details," she told the AP. "I refused to go with them, claiming I needed to do other things and consult with other people before going with them, but they said I had no choice but to go with them."

Other questions concerned the financial details of a project in the northern city of Ordos in which Ai invited a number of foreign architects to participate. Lu said she was told she would not be permitted to leave China because she was a crime suspect, but police again refused to say what they accusations against her were.

"Their only answer was, 'you are now a suspect of a crime, that is all we can tell you'," Lu said.

The detention and subsequent investigation of Ai, an internationally acclaimed conceptual artist, have been interpreted by activists as a way to punish him for his outspoken criticism of the authoritarian government.

In a separate interview Tuesday, Ai said Lu's interrogation may have been associated with an ongoing exhibition of his art in Taiwan that has highlighted his case and accusations of human rights abuses on the mainland. Ai was earlier prevented from traveling to Taiwan to preside over the exhibition, and Lu had been planning to visit in the next few days.

China claims Taiwan as its territory and is trying to woo the island's population into accepting a campaign for closer ties being pressed by President Ma Ying-jeou, who is seeking presidential re-election next year.

"They know Lu is innocent, but still want to harass her," Ai said. "It seems they fear the exhibition could be affecting the Taiwan election."