Detained Chinese artist Ai allowed to meet wife

Mon May 16, 2011 11:36am EDT
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By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei met with his wife for the first time since his detention six weeks ago, and in the presence of police told her that he had not been tortured, Ai's mother said on Monday.

The brief meeting on Sunday afternoon between Ai Weiwei (pronounced Eye Way-way) and his wife, Lu Qing, followed weeks of uncertainty about the outspoken artist's fate after he was seized at Beijing's international airport on April 3, igniting an outcry about China's tightening grip on dissent.

Ai's wife, Lu, was contacted by police officers and taken to meet her husband "for a short while," Ai's mother, Gao Ying, told Reuters by telephone.

"The rumors that we've heard about him being tortured have been too much for us to take, but now seeing is believing," Gao said of the meeting.

China's foreign ministry said Ai, 53, was being investigated on suspicion of economic crimes, but Chinese police have issued no formal notice to his family notifying them that he is being held for any suspected crime.

Ai's family has said the charge against Ai is an unfounded excuse to silence his criticism of the government. Police have not told his wife or other family members where he is being held. His secretive detention prompted heavy criticism in the West, and Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council -- representing EU governments -- was expected to raise the 27-nation bloc's concerns in Beijing this week. Lu did not answer multiple calls made to her mobile phone.

"He seemed conflicted, contained, his face was tense," Lu told the Associated Press, noting that two other people were present during the meeting, including one who seemed to "be in charge" of Ai.

Ai's elder sister, Gao Ge, said Lu was told by the authorities that she could only bring up questions related to Ai's health during the meeting.   Continued...

<p>A worker attaches a banner showing Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, to the Lisson Gallery in London May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>