China lifted bail against artist Ai Weiwei this week, but said the artist says officials have his passport, meaning he’s been forbidden from leaving the country. The man called “the Chinese Warhol” has long suspected China’s $2.5 million tax evasion case against him — as well as the demolishment of his art studio — is retaliation for his political dissidence. Last year, Weiwei spent over two months in secret detention without charge.
The lifting of the bail came this week despite the fact the artist was barred from attending the Beijing court case he filed against the tax bureau. Officials refused to allow his lawyer to enter new evidence or call witnesses. Weiwei is also facing trumped up charges of pornography and bigamy for themes relating to his artwork, as well as illicit exchange of foreign currency. (One wonders where the Chinese government thinks he has found the time to create his art, given his supposed criminal activity.)
The artist’s activism and legal troubles can be seen in the new documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, by filmmaker Alison Klayman, which debuts July 27. Weiwei grew to prominence after designing the “bird’s nest” stadium at the 2008 Olympics in China, but quickly got on the bad side of Chinese authorities for criticizing the country’s repressive control. China is so nervous they have banned him from using Twitter (which he refused, until they took his computers) and placed police outside his home to monitor him at all times.
In a piece published this Thursday in the UK Guardian, Weiwei wrote, “Stupidity can win for a moment, but it can never really succeed because the nature of humans is to seek freedom. They can delay that freedom, but they can’t stop it.”