Ai Weiwei threatened with pornography charges over nude photograph

 

Chinese police told dissident artist Ai Weiwei today that he could face bigamy and pornography charges and barred him from travel, despite lifting strict bail conditions imposed after his detention.

Ai, who left his house today for the first time in a year without having to report his whereabouts to police, was held for 81 days without charge in April 2011 mainly in solitary confinement until his conditional release last year.

"If getting back half of my freedom means I'm free, then I'm a free person," Ai said. "But they're restricting my ability to travel and still trying to fabricate crimes."

The threats against Ai underscore Beijing's efforts to muzzle China's most prominent critic and are likely to spark an outcry among his supporters and the international community, which has taken a close interest in his case.

China is sensitive to any threat to Communist Party rule and clamps down on all dissent, illustrated by the recent furore over the flight from house arrest by blind activist Chen Guangcheng.

Ai told Reuters that the restrictions of his bail, linked to suspected economic crimes, were lifted today but police said he could not travel as he is "suspected of other crimes" including pornography, bigamy and illicit exchange of foreign currency.

Police in Beijing were not immediately available for comment.

Ai said police brought up a photograph that Ai had taken in 2010, sitting next to four women, all five of them naked, in a studio pose. Police told Ai that a file of the photograph had been opened online more than 1,000 times, and that meant he was effectively spreading pornography, he said.

Ai said the four women had posted the photograph "as a joke".

"We never even touched each other," Ai said. "It's nothing. Nobody will say that's pornography. I asked them why this is pornography. They said under our policy, if there's nudity, if people try to open a file many times, like over 1,000 times, that's pornography. They have a law like that, which is ridiculous."

Ai, who is married, also denies the charge of bigamy. He openly meets a girlfriend and has a three-year-old son from that relationship.

On the possible charge of "illicit exchange of foreign currency", Ai said police told him that it concerned a project in 2008, when he invited 100 foreign architects to Inner Mongolia and arranged for a Swiss gallery to pay them in euros, while he got yuan currency in return.

Ai, 55, said that when he asked police how long the investigation could take, he was told it could go on for "as long as they want it, it could be years".

"I feel this shows that they are trying to intimidate, trying to put pressure on a citizen to tell you who's the authority and still to punish me for doing what I've been doing," Ai said.

"I'm still paying a price for that, paying a price for freely communicating and discussing and giving out opinions and criticising different matters."

Under the conditions of his release from 81 days in detention, Ai was not allowed to post anything on Twitter, travel or accept interviews for a year.

But the bearded artist has still been a persistent irritant to authorities, communicating with his supporters on Twitter and calling for a public forum to discuss a tax case.

The company that markets Ai's work is challenging a penalty of 15 million yuan for supposed tax evasion, a charge supporters have dismissed as trumped up. Police warned him to stay away from the hearing on Wednesday. No ruling has been announced.

Ai said police told him this morning that he "should not talk to the press, you should not criticise the government".

Ai said he had consulted a lawyer.

"The lawyer said: they cannot do that, because once you're free from probation, you're a free man. If they want to charge you, they have to make a case," Ai said.

When Ai was detained, interrogators threatened to level charges of subversion, pornography and bigamy against him, he told Reuters earlier.

Police have not returned Ai's passport, he said, adding that they have also restricted the ability of his wife to travel.

Reuters

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Foundation Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are looking for Founda...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?