Detained Ai Weiwei allowed to meet wife
Chinese artist said to be in good health as he is visited for the first time in six weeks since his detention.
Last Modified: 16 May 2011 08:58

Chinese authorities have allowed the wife of detained artist and activist Ai Weiwei to meet him, breaking six weeks of isolation from his family, the artist's mother says.

Gao Ying said Ai's wife, Lu Qing, was contacted by police officers and taken to meet her spouse "for a short while" on Sunday.

She said her son had not been mistreated or tortured.

"The fact that Lu Qing could see him was already a very merciful act by the authorities," Gao said, adding that Ai did not go into details about his charge, except that "he did not understand it".

"The rumours that we've heard about him being tortured have been too much for us to take, but now seeing is believing. His condition is good."    

Lu did not meet with Ai at a police station, but rather at a location that she was not familiar with, Gao said. The couple sat across a table, with police officers watching them.    

"He was especially worried about my health, and of course she had to tell him that I'm doing well and not that I'm at home crying every day," Gao said.

"Lu Qing told him the family is fine and told him not to worry. He was very moved and tears welled up in his eyes."

Gao said Ai, dressed in white, looked healthy and had not lost much weight.

"His face was still red and he still has his beard. He didn't look too skinny," Gao said, adding that Ai had told Lu he exercised by walking.

The couple's brief meeting on Sunday afternoon followed weeks of international controversy about the artist since his detention at Beijing's international airport on April 3.

Ai, 53, is being investigated on suspicion of economic crimes, which his family has said are an unfounded excuse to silence his criticism of the government.

Ai's detention has sparked a barrage of criticism in the West, where Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council -  representing EU governments - is expected to raise the 27-nation bloc's concerns in Beijing this week.

Last month, protesters in Hong Kong staged a demonstration against Ai's detention and called for his immediate release.

The burly, bearded and blunt sculptor is one of China's best-recognised contemporary artists.

His career encompasses protests for artistic freedom in 1979, provocative works in the 1990s and a role in designing the Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.    

Ai has produced work spanning porcelain sunflower seeds to names of earthquake victims scrolling on a computer screen.

Unlike many of his peers, he has waded deep into political territory, speaking out on everything from last year's award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo to curbs on the internet.

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