Ai Weiwei: Foreign travel ban 'disappointing'

Ai Wei Wei said police follow him everywhere and his phone is tapped

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Dissident artist Ai Weiwei says that he would like to travel abroad but Chinese authorities are continuing to curtail his freedom despite his bail ending.

Mr Ai told the BBC he had been told he could not leave China - which was very "disappointing".

He also spoke of constant surveillance in the year since his release from detention.

He was detained last year and then fined for tax evasion, actions he says are politically motivated.

He is challenging the $2.4m (£1.59m) fine but was prevented from attending a court hearing earlier this week.

'Strings attached'

His bail ended a year after his 22 June 2011 release from custody, but Mr Ai said he was still subject to restrictions.

"My feelings are very mixed," he said. "They told me I cannot leave the nation. I asked them for how long and they said: 'We cannot answer you'. It seems very disappointing."

The artist said he would like to go to both the UK and the US later in the year for work, but did not know whether it would be possible.

"It comes as a surprise they will not let me travel, because you cannot give somebody freedom and say there are strings attached," he said.

He said that for the past year he had been living under restrictions which he described as "sometimes very strong", including not being allowed to talk to foreign press or post on Twitter.

Start Quote

You see them following you everywhere”

End Quote Ai Weiwei

"Of course, I have violated many of them because it is impossible for me not to reveal some truth," he said.

"I have been followed, even in the park... You see people hiding behind the bushes, you see they are recording, video tape," he said.

"You see them following you everywhere, two cars, three cars, every day for past 300-something days... Then of course they tap your phone, they check your e-mail, they do whatever is possible to violate your privacy."

The artist said he is now being investigated for alleged crimes including putting pornography on the internet - believed to stem from a portrait showing him seated, surrounded by four naked women.

The artist, an outspoken critic of the government, was detained for almost three months without charge last year. After he was released, he was accused of tax evasion and the fine imposed.

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