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By KEITH BRADSHER and RICK GLADSTONE, nytimes.com / Published: August 9, 2011.
Grace Liang / Reuters.
HONG KONG — Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and dissident, on Tuesday broke his silence on political topics for the first time since he was released from detention in China nearly two months ago, denouncing in Twitter postings the treatment of business colleagues who had been detained with him and expressing support for two other incarcerated dissidents.
In a brief telephone conversation on Wednesday morning, Mr. Ai said he had felt personally compelled to speak out on his colleagues’ behalf even though he knew that it might cause further legal difficulties for him. He said his colleagues were in greater danger in prison than he had been because they were unknown to the general public and faced harsher treatment as a result.
“If I don’t speak out for them, this is not possible, even though it may bring damage to my condition,” he said in English.
Mr. Ai said that he had decided to speak out even though the terms of his release from detention prohibited him from making public statements either online or in interviews. “I have to obey the law,” he said. “Otherwise I have to face the consequences.”
Mr. Ai, 54, formerly an outspoken critic of Chinese political and social restrictions, was arrested in April, held for three months by state security officials and later charged with tax evasion arising from his Shanghai art studio business. He was released after Chinese authorities said he had confessed and had been a model prisoner. His tax evasion case is pending.
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