Chinese activist Ai Weiwei was freed from jail this week after nearly three months, but that doesn’t mean he’s exactly “free.”
The government imposed a handful of restrictions on the outspoken critic of the ruling Communist Party as part of the conditions of his bail.
Most notably, Ai is not allowed to speak out publicly about his arrest or time in jail. The gag order also extends to Twitter, which Ai had regularly used to share his pro-democracy views with his more than 89,000 followers.
Ai also must stay close to home. While he is not under house arrest, he cannot leave Beijing for at least a year, and before he travels anywhere, “he needs to report his whereabouts to them,” a source close to Ai’s family tells Reuters.
There has been no word yet on how Chinese officials plan to clamp down on Ai’s most powerful communication: his art work. But given the other strict conditions of his bail, he's not expected to push the envelope on that front.
For their part, Chinese officials say they are still investigating Ai and that they are handling his case like any other “very common economic crime,” reports the Washington Post.
Ai was arrested on April 3 on a number of charges, including tax evasion, but his family, friends, and international supporters think it is his open criticism of the government that got him into trouble.
Human rights groups, meanwhile, are hoping to capitalize on the international attention Ai’s detention garnered to highlight the other 130 lawyers and activists who have been detained by the Chinese government since February.
“It is vital that the international outcry over Ai Weiwei be extended to those activists still languishing in secret detention or charged with inciting subversion,” Amnesty International said in a statement.