Ai Weiwei held by China for 'economic crimes'

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China confirmed yesterday that it has detained the renowned artist Ai Weiwei, who has been missing for four days, but insisted that his case involved economic crimes and not human rights.

Ai, an avant-garde artist who is also an outspoken critic of the government, was last seen in police custody early on Sunday after he was barred from boarding a flight to Hong Kong at a Beijing airport.

Hong Lei, a foreign ministry spokesman, said that police were investigating Ai for unspecified economic crimes. "It has nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression," he said.

"Ai Weiwei is suspected of economic crimes, and the public security authorities are conducting an investigation according to law. China is a country under the rule of law, and relevant authorities will work according to law," he added.