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Global reaction to Ai Weiwei's release

By Natalie Robehmed, for CNN
Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei speaks to reporters outside his studio in Beijing Thursday.
Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei speaks to reporters outside his studio in Beijing Thursday.
  • Commentators remain critical of Beijing's actions over Ai Weiwei
  • He was seized April 3 while planning to board a plane to Hong Kong
  • Artist spent nearly three months in prison on charges of tax evasion

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The release from custody of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei provoked a range of responses Thursday from around the world, with many commentators expressing relief at his release while remaining critical of Beijing's actions.

He was seized April 3 while planning to board a plane to Hong Kong and later accused of economic crimes, a move that prompted international condemnation and added to criticism over China's controversial record on human rights.

British artist Anish Kapoor, famous for his large-scale sculptures, the most recent of which was dedicated to Ai, issued an email statement quoted by the BBC that advocated a cautious reception of Ai's release.

"While I am thankful that he has been released, I do not think that artists should present their work in China until the situation has been resolved."

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  • China
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The "situation" Kapoor refers to are the circumstances under which Ai has been released. The conditions of his bail remain unclear, but it appears as if there are limits on what he can say publicly.

When asked over the phone by The Daily Telegraph whether he would continue to use Twitter -- the social media site on which Ai has posted more than 60,000 tweets -- Ai replied that he was unable to speak further.

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The Independent's Clifford Coonan suggests that the release appears to be a compromise deal, which saves the face of both sides.

He explained: "There had been rumours that the government was taken aback by the scale of the international reaction to his arrest, but his outspoken criticism was difficult for the Chinese authorities to ignore."

As China's Premier Wen Jiabao begins a tour of Europe, some critics suggest that Ai's release is a placatory act to coincide with Wen's trip to Britain, Germany and Hungary.
"His release can be seen as a tokenistic move by the government to deflect mounting criticisms," said Catherine Baber, the Asia-Pacific deputy director for Amnesty International, told Reuters.

But Roderic Wye, a China analyst from the Chatham House thinktank, told The Guardian that he considered the timing to be coincidental.

"The whole point for China is: we don't give in to pressure these days, China is big enough to make its own decisions without taking foreign pressure into account."

Regardless of its motivations, Ai's release continues to receive attention from the world of politics.

As reported by NPR, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told a news conference Wednesday: "It's always a good thing when an individual who is only in prison for exercising his internationally recognized human rights is released."

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief spokesman Steffen Seibert was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that Merkel welcomed Ai's release but considered it only a first step, and that the accusations against Ai have to be cleared by the judicial system in a transparent way.