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China threatens Ai Weiwei with bigamy, pornography charges

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China threatens Ai Weiwei with bigamy, pornography charges

  • Artist Ai Weiwei poses as 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' in his Beijing studio for photographer Sharon Lovell on June 30, 2009.
    Sharon Lovell photoArtist Ai Weiwei poses as 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' in his Beijing studio for photographer Sharon Lovell on June 30, 2009.

Ai Weiwei has been threatened with bigamy and pornography charges by Chinese officials, who have barred him from travel despite the expiration of his one-year bail condition, Agence France Presse reported Thursday

The Chinese artist and dissident, who was held for 81 days without being charged in April 2011, was permitted to leave his house without having to report to the police for the first time this year on Thursday, Reuters reported.

However, he still faces restrictions from China's government. On Wednesday, Weiwei was barred from leaving his home to attend a court hearing to challenge a hefty tax bill. 

"If getting back half of my freedom means I'm free, then I'm a free person," Ai told Reuters. "But they're restricting my ability to travel and still trying to fabricate crimes."

When he was released in June 2011, authorities accused him of tax evasion, seized his passport, and barred him from leaving Beijing for a year, according to ABC News

"This morning, I went to the police station ... My one-year probation is finished, but they said they will still limit my rights to travel," the artist told ABC News. "The order says I cannot travel outside of China."

The charges of pornography stem from a 2010 nude photograph of Ai sitting next to four women, Reuters reported. Police allegedly told Weiwei that a file of the photograph had been opened online more than 1,000 times and that they could convict him for spreading pornography. 

"We never even touched each other," Ai told Reuters. "It's nothing. Nobody will say that's pornography. I asked them why this is pornography. They said under our policy, if there's nudity, if people try to open a file many times, like over 1,000 times, that's pornography. They have a law like that, which is ridiculous."

The bigamy charges most likely are in reference to the artist's ongoing friendship with a girlfriend with whom he has a three-year-old son, according to Reuters. Ai is currently married and has denied those charges as well, Reuters reported.

Weiwei is responsible for leading high-profile investigations into the 2008 Sichuan earthquake's schools' collapse and into a 2010 fire at a Shanghai high-rise that killed dozens of people, which has made him an enemy of the Communist Party, according to AFP, and the artist's detention last year sparked international outcry.

The period leading up to his 2011 detention was chronicled in the 2012 documentary "Never Sorry." 

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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