Update (11:55 a.m., EDT): Early reports were unclear as to whether Ai had physically been released from the prison. But the artist has reportedly been in touch with his lawyer via text, so it looks like the release is official. The blog Hyperallergic has been tracking the story.

 

Ai lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan says that as long as the taxes are paid, the criminal charges should be dropped. He also notes that be believes the Xinhua report, that they “wouldn’t possibly play so big of a joke”.  Ai Weiwei just texted Liu, so his release is confirmed.

Original story: Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who has been in prison since April 3, is now free on bail, according to the government's Xinhua news service which carried a brief news report on its English-language edition.

BEIJING, June 22 (Xinhua) -- The Beijing police department said Wednesday that Ai Weiwei has been released on bail because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from.

The decision comes also in consideration of the fact that Ai has repeatedly said he is willing to pay the taxes he evaded, police said.

The Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., a company Ai controlled, was found to have evaded a huge amount of taxes and intentionally destroyed accounting documents, police said.

Ai, an outspoken proponent of democracy in authoritarian China, had been charged with nonpayment of taxes, bigamy, and "spreading pornography on the Internet." But many in the West and in the artistic community believe he was detained in Beijing from a Hong Kong-bound flight because of his vocal politics. Despite Xinhua's report of a "chronic disease," last month The Guardian reported Ai was "in good physical health."