After Six Weeks Apart, Ai Weiwei Allowed to See Wife

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Getty images/Peter Macdiarmid

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was finally allowed to see his wife after six weeks of isolation from his family, at a secret place on Sunday afternoon.

He was detained at Beijing’s international airport on April 3 for alleged “official crimes,” though people close to him believe he was arrested for  denouncing the regime’s lack of freedom. China has been undergoing criticism worldwide because of its clampdown on bloggers, lawyers and artists, and Ai has gained special prominence perhaps thanks to his much-loved Sunflower Seeds exhibition at Tate Modern in London.

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Those familiar with Chinese politics had reasons to believe he was being tortured, especially following rumors that he had been shown a video of police using an electric baton to get another dissident, Gao Zhisbeng, to “confess.” The encounter with his wife was a great sign of relief to his mother, Gao Ying, who said the rumors been “too much” and summed her emotions up with the familiar phrase, “seeing is believing.”

Sitting across a table from her husband with officials closely watching, Lu Qing had no option but to read behind Al Weiwei’s emotions.  Lu was warned not to talk about anything but family or health. During their 20-minute encounter, Lu could tell Ai Weiwei was unwell. “He seemed conflicted, contained, his face was tense. I could see redness in his eyes. It was obvious that without freedom to express himself he was not behaving naturally even with me, someone from his family,” she told the AP. His mother did mention though, that he was wearing his own clothes as opposed to the detention center uniform.

Despite the encounter, we still don’t know what charges Ai is facing. According to Chinese criminal law, he should have received the 37 days after the detention. But perhaps their meeting was a sign that widespread support is not going unnoticed. Recently, artists like sculptor Anish Kapoor and novelist Salman Rushdie have urged governments to condemn his arrest.

Ai’s family and friends certainly aren’t intending on giving up. “Now that we’ve seen that his health is okay, of course we are a bit less anxious, but that’s not to say we want him to stay where he is,” Ai’s mother said. “We really want this case to be dealt with as soon as possible and for the government to follow proper procedures in keeping with Chinese law.”

(PHOTOS: Beijing’s public transit system)