Chinese court snubs artist Ai Weiwei’s plea for justice
A CHINESE court has upheld a £1.5 million fine for tax evasion against the country’s most famous dissident, artist Ai Weiwei, after barring him from attending the hearing.
Critics accused the authorities of using the case to muzzle the outspoken Mr Ai.
He had asked Chaoyang district court to overturn the local tax office’s rejection of his appeal against a tax evasion penalty imposed on the company which produces his art and designs.
Yesterday Mr Ai said police had barred him from appearing in person at the court. Told of the court ruling, he said he would launch a further legal bid to overturn the decision, claiming due process had been ignored.
Mr Ai said: “This verdict shows that this country, more than 60 years after its founding still has no basic legal process, still has no respect for the truth, still will never give taxpayers and citizens an ability to justify themselves.
“The entire judiciary is shrouded in darkness.”
Speaking to reporters at his home in northeastern Beijing, Mr Ai pledged to challenge the Chaoyang ruling in a higher court.
The verdict adds to China’s already tarnished international image, at least in the West, coming on the heels of a score of other high-profile civil rights cases, including the fleeing to the US embassy of blind self-taught legal activist Chen Guangcheng.
“It has cost them dearly, but I think it reflects where the Chinese authorities are at,” said Corinna-Barbara Francis, Amnesty International’s China researcher. “It reflects how precarious their position is. Obviously it comes from deep insecurity that they would have to go after someone like him.”
The loss of Mr Ai’s appeal underscores Beijing’s increasing intolerance of dissent ahead of a problematic generational transition of power at the end of the year, when vice president Xi Jinping is set to be anointed to take over from president Hu Jintao.
Dozens of police and patrolcars flanked the road leading to the courthouse before yesterday’s verdict. The Chaoyang district court heard the case at a closed hearing in June, which in itself was a departure from the consistent refusal by the strictly controlled legal system to give dissidents any hearing.
Although Mr Ai’s wife, Lu Qing, was allowed to attend, the 55-year-old artist said the process was unfair after police warned him to stay away and blocked journalists from approaching the cramped court room which only had five seats. The court did not answer calls seeking comment.
Tax authorities are demanding the company that markets Mr Ai’s work pay a 15 million yuan ( £1.5m) penalty for alleged tax evasion.
Government efforts to silence Mr Ai have frequently backfired, as demonstrated by an outpouring of public sympathy – and cash – in response to the tax penalty.
About 30,000 people donated money to help Mr Ai cover an 8.45 million yuan bond required to contest the tax charges.
Many of his supporters even folded banknotes into paper planes and pitched them over his garden wall.
Clad in a grey T-shirt with his face and the words “missing” and “found” printed on it, Mr Ai said he would not pay the remaining fine and that he has no hope of recovering the bond lodged with the tax authorities.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North