Dissidents released just before Chinese premier visits the UK

JISHOU, CHINA — What a coincidence. Days before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited British Prime Minister David Cameron to sign trade deals worth $2.2 billion, Chinese officials released two prominent dissidents, Ai WeiWei and Hu Jia. Cameron, pro forma, gave some lip service to preserving human rights as he signed the trade agreements worth £1.4 billion, while Wen gave the usual Chinese reply — “MYOB” — though somewhat more diplomatically than my shorter version. Last week, Ai, an internationally known artist, was finally released on bail after being picked up in a Hong Kong airport three months ago and kept virtually incognito. He was charged officially with tax evasion, but he also has been a vocal political gadfly in China. Ai has been publicizing the names of students who died when their “tofu-construction” schools collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The state news agency reported Ai, 54, was released because he had confessed to his crimes and because he was in poor health. Prior to his arrest, Ai, his family and his associates denied any tax evasion. Hu, 37, was also released at the end of his a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence on Sunday, which apparently was his official release date. ...
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