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Ai Weiwei says 'cannot leave China' as bail ends
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 21, 2012

Chen says China sanctions against family abating
Washington (AFP) June 21, 2012 - Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese activist whose flight to the US embassy in Beijing sparked a major diplomatic incident, said Thursday that sanctions against his family are waning.

"The extraordinary official surveillance and restrictions imposed on my family members who remain in our home village reportedly have started to abate," Chen said in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.

"The county police have even begun to make amends, offering to pay my brother for some of the furniture they broke during the vengeful attack on his family after they discovered my escape," he wrote.

Chen was sentenced to more than four years in prison in 2006 after exposing abuses in China's one-child policy and then placed under house arrest in the village of Shandong upon his release in September 2010.

The 40-year-old activist's escape from house arrest and his dramatic arrival at the US embassy in Beijing in April highlighted China's long-criticized human rights record.

It also sparked a diplomatic incident just as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting the Communist country, and Chen was eventually given notice to pack up his belongings and prepare for departure to New York, arriving in the city on May 19.

In his article, Chen calls for the release of his nephew Chen Kegui, whom he says was detained on April 26 for defending himself against 30 armed thugs linked to "local officials," during a raid on the family's farmhouse.

Police, he said, charged Chen Kegui with attempted murder for wounding three of the attackers with a kitchen knife.

"If instead of being investigated for their misdeeds, local authorities are allowed to prosecute Kegui, this will send a message to the world that Chinese officials are above the law," Chen concluded.

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei said Thursday he was still barred from leaving the country despite the expiry of a one-year bail condition imposed after his release from detention last June.

The outspoken 55-year-old, whose works have been exhibited in scores of countries, spent 81 days in custody last year as police rounded up dissidents amid online calls for Arab Spring-style protests in China.

On his release on June 22, 2011, authorities accused him of tax evasion, took away his passport barred him from leaving Beijing for a year -- a restriction that has prevented him from attending his own exhibitions overseas.

On Thursday, Ai told AFP he had received an official order announcing the end of his bail term, but that he was still barred from leaving the country because he was under investigation for alleged crimes including putting pornography on the Internet.

"This morning, I went to the police station... My one-year probation is finished, but they said they will still limit my rights to travel," he said. "The order says I cannot travel outside of China."

Ai said he was unsure whether he was now able to leave the capital, but added the order did not specify that he was prohibited from travelling within China.

"They said I'm still under investigation for my other crimes. So I said,'you have to make a case, you can't just say that'.

"I asked what crimes, and they said crimes such as putting pornography on the Internet."

Ai said last November that he had been accused of pornography when he was detained, apparently in relation to old pictures posted online of him posing with naked women.

He said he had ridiculed the charges -- telling police "nudity is not pornography" -- until police called in his assistant for questioning on the issue.

On Thursday, he said his wife's movements had also been restricted over the past year, and that police had been unable to tell him whether she was free to travel.

Ai's detention last year sparked an international outcry, with the United States and the European Union leading calls for his release.

The official Xinhua news agency said after Ai's release that he had "confessed" to tax evasion via the Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., a company he set up but which is legally registered in his wife's name.

He has denied this, denouncing the charges as politically motivated and designed to "crush" his activism.

Ai has previously riled the ruling Communist Party with high-profile investigations into the collapse of schools in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and into a 2010 fire at a Shanghai high-rise that killed dozens of people.

On Wednesday, lawyers for Fake went to court to try and challenge the tax evasion charges and a multi-million-dollar penalty brought against Fake -- a hearing blanketed in heavy security that Ai himself was not allowed to attend.

In an indication of how sensitive the case is, other activists reported being restricted or harassed by authorities on Wednesday.

Liu Xiaoyuan, a legal adviser to Ai Weiwei, said Thursday authorities had forced him to leave Beijing and return to his native Jiangxi province, while veteran dissident Hu Jia said he was beaten by state security forces Wednesday.

The hearing lasted more than nine hours, and lawyers said at the end that the court now had until early August to give a ruling.

Before his detention, the burly artist travelled extensively, holding exhibitions of his installations, sculptures and photographs in many countries around the world.

The value of his work has shot up since his detention thrust him into the global spotlight, and in October Britain's influential Art Review magazine named him the most powerful figure in the art world.

His latest high-profile piece of work is a pavilion for this year's London Olympics that he helped build with Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, with which he had previously collaborated to create Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium.

Ai contributed to designing the pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery in London's Kensington Gardens park, reportedly using Skype to coordinate with the company as he was unable to leave Beijing.

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China student's family urges probe into 'suicide'
Beijing (AFP) June 21, 2012 - The parents of a Chinese student found dead with 13 stab wounds to her body have called for an investigation after police ruled she committed suicide, state television reported.

Tian Shuhan, 21, was found dead in the hallway of a teacher's dormitory building at her university in central China's Henan province earlier this month, Henan's Minsheng TV reported.

Police told Minsheng the wounds, including six to her neck and five to her legs, were self-inflicted and stemmed from the extreme mental pressure she was facing during ongoing exams.

But her family said Tian showed no emotional distress ahead of her death -- and questioned how she could have stabbed herself 13 times.

The family is demanding a further investigation and wants to know why she was in the teacher's dormitory, the report said.

Police in Henan's Zhongmou county refused to comment on the case when contacted by AFP. Calls to the university went unanswered Thursday.

The television report sparked protests on China's popular microblogs. "The police are garbage, calling it a suicide is the easiest way to solve the case," posted one user.

"This girl really had to be strong, she was not only brave enough to die, she was also brave enough to die slowly, cut-by-cut," said another posting.

"This is really a creative way to commit suicide. You police can believe this, but damn it, I don't believe."

The case comes after Chinese authorities said the death of leading dissident Li Wangyang -- who served 22 years in prison following the quelling of the 1989 Tiananmen Democracy protests -- was suicide, sparking uproar among activists.

Li, who was blind, nearly deaf and barely able to walk, was found hanging by a bandage from the windowsill of his hospital ward, with both feet on the ground.

He died days after an interview with Hong Kong journalists in which he vowed to continue to fight for democracy in China.


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Two Tibetans set themselves alight in China
Beijing (AFP) June 21, 2012
Two young Tibetans in a remote area of northwest China set themselves alight, state media and a rights group said Thursday, in the latest such protest against Chinese rule. The men, both in their 20s, set themselves on fire Wednesday in Qinghai province's Chenduo county after leaving a letter calling for solidarity among Tibetans, the London-based Free Tibet said in a statement. The offi ... read more

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