In a move that has surprised many, controversial activst artist Ai Weiwei has reportedly returned home after being released on bail.
In its short dispatch, the official Xinhua News Agency reported that Ai had been released by Beijing police 'because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from.' It added that the police also took into consideration 'the fact that Ai has repeatedly said he is willing to pay the taxes he evaded.'
Ai had been in detention since being arrested at Beijing airport on April 3 as he was preparing to board a flight to Hong Kong. Best known for his role in designing the Bird's Nest stadium that showcased the Beijing Olympics, Ai is an outspoken critic of the Chinese government. Indeed, this hasn't been his first brush with the law — he had to undergo brain surgery in September 2009 after being punched by police.
This time, Ai seems to be in better health, thanking reporters outside his studio after being released, according to The Telegraph. Unsurprisingly, he said he couldn't make any comment under the conditions of his release.
The question many will be asking now, though, is over the timing. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is about to travel to Europe on a three-nation visit, while China and the United States will this Saturday hold the first round of consultations on Asia- Pacific affairs, in a meeting to be co-hosted by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai and US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell. Coincidence?