Artist Ai Weiwei has returned to Twitter. The group of volunteers translating his tweets into English is back as well. His initial messages to his 96,000 followers were hardly damning. The first tweet said simply, “What’s up.” He continued with, “Lunch 10 dumplings, bodyweight gains 3kg.” They were so innocent, in fact, the BBC, in a photo caption, questioned whether they were secret messages. “Ai Weiwei’s Twitter musings: deeply-veiled commentary or banal remarks?”
Yesterday he started being more explicit. A series of messages mentions the names of four friends who were detained alongside the artist:
“Because they were connected to me, these four people, Liu Zhenggang, Hu Mingfen, Wen Tao, Zhang Jingsong, were illegally detained, and though innocent, underwent great mental and physical torment.”
“Today I met Liu Zhenggang. For the first time he began to talk about his recent detention… Then tears fell from this tough man. He had a heart attack during detention and almost died.”
“If you don’t speak out for Wang Lihong, and don’t speak out for Ruan Yunfei, you are not only a person who doesn’t stand up for justice and fairness, you don’t have any self-respect.”
Mr. Ai was detained on charges of tax fraud in April. He was recently released from an 80-day detention. After his release, Mr. Ai first took to Google+, where he posted documents relating to the Chinese government’s tax delinquency charges against him. His family and many supporters assert Mr. Ai was arrested because of his political activism.