China's Ai Weiwei sues tax office in 'evasion' case


16 April 2012

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei is suing Beijing tax authorities for violating the law by imposing a 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) tax evasion penalty on the company he works for without allowing him access to evidence and witnesses, Ai said on Friday.

Supporters of Ai, whose 81-day detention last year sparked an international outcry, have said the tax case is part of the government's effort to muzzle China's most famous social critic.

Ai, 54, is urging a Beijing court to overturn the city tax office's rejection of his appeal against the tax evasion penalty imposed on the company he works for, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., which has helped produce his art and designs.

"In the handling of the whole process for Fake, some of their actions were illegal and violated regulations," Ai told Reuters by telephone.

The company's lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, told Reuters previously that authorities had not shown him any original documents with evidence of the alleged tax evasion and held a closed hearing last July.

Pu said it was illegal for them to do so. Ai was barred from attending the hearing, but his wife, Lu Qing, was present.

Ai said officials had also prevented the company's accountant and manager from communicating with Ai or his lawyer since the case began.

Liu Yanping, a worker in Ai's studio, told Reuters she accompanied Lu, the legal representative of the firm, to the courthouse on Friday morning. The authorities accepted their documents and told them they would hear whether their lawsuit had been accepted within seven days, Liu said by telephone.


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