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China says 'don't interfere' in Ai Weiwei case

Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

China has warned the international community not to interfere in the case of outspoken avant-garde artist Ai Weiwei who was detained while trying to board a flight to Hong Kong on Sunday for investigation into unspecified economic crimes. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed Ai had been taken into custody.

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He added the detention had nothing to do with human rights and freedom of expression.

The United States, France, Germany and Britain have joined Amnesty International and other groups in calling for Ai's release.

Ai is the latest of dozens of activists and government critics to be rounded up following online calls for demonstrations in China similar to the "Jasmine" protests that have rocked the Arab world.

The son of a poet revered by China's early Communist leaders, Ai helped design the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Games.

He has since become more politically active with an investigation into the collapse of schools in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and a Shanghai high-rise fire last November that killed dozens of people. He claimed he was beaten up by police when he tried to testify on behalf of another activist in 2009.

In the past, Beijing has used charges such as subversion to put away government critics as in the case of jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xaibao.

Ai's wife told the French news agency that she had no confirmation from police about the investigation, or news of her husband's whereabouts.

 

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