A court in Chinese capital Beijing has rejected an appeal filed by dissident artist Ai Weiwei against a $2 million fine imposed on his company for alleged tax evasion, the artist's lawyer said on Friday.
Pu Zhiqiang, Ai's lawyer who attended the hearing on behalf of his client, was quoted as saying by the media that the court ruling was "totally without reason." Ai has since said via twitter that he was prevented from attending Friday's court proceedings in Beijing's Chaoyang district by police officers stationed outside his home.
Ai, a staunch critic of the Chinese government, was forced to pay a bond of 8.45 million yuan ($1.3 million) to the Chinese government in November 2011 to enable him to file an appeal against a tax evasion charge pressed against him and his company.
Ai said later that he paid the bond after being warned by tax authorities that they would transfer his case to the police if he failed to deposit the bond amount into a government account. The 8.45 million yuan bond paid by Ai did include the fine of about 6.6 million yuan. He later filed an appeal against the multi-million-dollar tax fine, which was surprisingly accepted by the Beijing court.
The money Ai provided as bond to the government was reportedly provided by his supporters. The artist has promised to repay his supporters the entire nine million yuan ($1.4 million) they donated for his cause.
Ai was released on bail in June 2011 after nearly three months in detention and was subsequently accused of tax evasion. He was ordered by the Beijing's Tax Bureau in November 2011 to pay 15 million yuan ($2.3 million) in back taxes and fines.
Chinese authorities claim that the Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, the company that oversees business aspects of Ai's career, was guilty of evading huge amount of taxes and deliberately destroying accounts of transactions made. Ai's wife, Lu Qing, is the legal representative of the firm in which the artist works as a designer.
Ai is best known for designing the captivating "Bird's Nest" Olympic stadium in Beijing. He was reportedly granted bail after he pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion. Ai and his family have since denied the charges.
Rights groups claim that Ai was arrested on April 4, 2011 at the Beijing airport as part of a massive crackdown by Chinese authorities on dissidents following a wave of pro-democracy protests in North Africa and the Middle East.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, however, rejected the claims and insisted that Ai was under investigation on "suspicion of economic crimes" and that his detention had "nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression."
by RTT Staff Writer
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