Ai Weiwei: Associates of Chinese artist 'also free'

Activist artist Ai Weiwei gestures while speaking to journalists gathered outside his home in Beijing, China on Thursday Ai Weiwei was freed last Wednesday, but the fate of colleagues detained with him was unclear

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Four people detained with Ai Weiwei - the artist and activist held by Chinese authorities for nearly three months - are also now free, sources close to Mr Ai have told the BBC.

Mr Ai was released last Wednesday but the whereabouts of his associates had been unclear.

They comprise his driver, accountant, assistant and a designer.

Mr Ai's sister, Gao Ge, and a volunteer worker for Mr Ai, Liu Yanping, have told the BBC all four are now free.

Zhang Jinsong, Hu Mingfen, Wen Tao and Liu Zhenggang are believed to have been released on bail on Thursday and Friday of last week, Ms Gao and Ms Liu said.

The detention of Mr Ai on what supporters called trumped-up charges prompted a global campaign for his release.

Mr Ai has been freed, but he is barred from discussing his case publicly, barred from leaving Beijing without permission and reportedly barred from using micro-blogging service Twitter - which he previously used prolifically.

Chinese authorities say he has confessed to tax evasion offences, but lawyers point out that no formal charges have been brought.

On Sunday, prominent environmentalist and Aids activist Hu Jia is scheduled to be released from prison.

He was jailed in April 2008 for "inciting subversion".

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