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Politics & Law

Ai Weiwei barred from Chinese court in tax case


Ai Weiwei

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was denied his day in court on Wednesday after dozens of police officers barricaded first his home in Beijing and then the court house itself.

Mr Ai, 54, claims that Beijing’s tax bureau breached Chinese law when it fined him 15 million yuan (£1.5 million) in unpaid back taxes and fines last year.

He claims the tax demand was politically motivated – a punishment for his criticism of the government – and won the right to contest the case in court.

However, the artist said he had been told by police he would not be able to attend the hearing personally.

“I asked them why, and they said: ‘You know why’. They never give me a clear explanation,” he complained. “I said they were interfering with a legal process. They said they could only tell me I was unable to go”.

Mr Ai’s wife, Lu Qing, who is the legal representative of his company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development, attended with three lawyers and an accountant. The case is expected to continue until August 7, according to Pu Zhiqiang, one of the lawyers.

However, another of Mr Ai’s legal team, Liu Xiaoyuan, was called in for a meeting with police at 8.30pm on Tuesday night and has not been heard of since.

Mr Ai said he was “two days away” from the end of his year-long probationary period following 81 days in an undisclosed jail cell last year.

Plainclothed and uniformed police officers were stationed outside Mr Ai’s home and outside the court house, and Mr Ai accused them of breaking a video camera as one of his assistants tried to film the scene. Meanwhile, he posted mischievous photographs of himself dressed as a police man onto the internet.

Mr Pu, who was also unreachable in the aftermath of the hearing, said he felt Mr Ai had already won a victory by getting his case heard. “This is a case against the administration, they have to prove that their procedures have been lawful, and that the result they produced is also lawful,” said Mr Pu before he went to the court.

“Even if I cannot prove the company’s [Fake’s] case is legal, as long as we can prove the government behaved illegally, we should win the case,” he noted, adding that the court case was a mark of the increasing transparency of the system.

Malcolm Moore
The Telegraph
 
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