A Chinese free speech advocate and who was held in secret detention for 81 days says that Beijing authorities have returned his passport.
Ai Weiwei, a 58-year-old dissident artist and government critic, had his passport confiscated following his detention four years ago.
The surprise move comes amid a deepening crackdown om civil society in China.
Ai was behind an art installation featuring 10 tonnes of porcelain sunflower seeds in London’s Tate Modern in 2010.
Ai was detained in 2011 without charge and held mainly in solitary confinement, sparking an international outcry. A court later upheld a 2 million euro fine against Ai for tax evasion.
The world-renowned artist maintains the charges from the tax evasion case were trumped up in retaliation for his criticism of the government.
In November 2013, Ai started protesting his travel ban by putting flowers in the basket of a bicycle outside his Beijing studio and home. On Twitter, he said he would do it every day until he “regains the right to travel freely.” On Wednesday (July 22), he said it had been 600 days.
Police did not give Ai “any additional conditions or warnings” for the return of his passport, he said, adding that it was “very relaxed.”