France calls for release of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei

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France on Monday called for the release of Ai Weiwei, a prominent Chinese artist and outspoken critic of the Beijing regime who was detained as he tried to board a flight to Hong Kong.

"We are very concerned about the fate of the militant artist Ai Weiwei and we are following his situation and that of his family very closely," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

"We hope he will be released as soon as possible," he told reporters.

His disappearance drew immediate concern from human rights groups and came after scores of dissidents, activists and rights lawyers were rounded up in recent weeks amid fears authorities are increasingly cracking down on dissent.

© 2011 AFP

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