x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

China to review Ai Weiwei tax case

Chinese authorities agreed to review a fine imposed on a firm linked to the controversial artist Ai Weiwei, who has said the Dh8.8 million penalty is an effort by the government to stifle his activism.

BEIJING // Chinese authorities agreed to review a fine imposed on a firm linked to the controversial artist Ai Weiwei, who has said the Dh8.8 million penalty is an effort by the government to stifle his activism.

"They have two months to review the case. If we are not satisfied with the results, we can bring the case to court," said Pu Zhiqiang, a lawyer for Fake Cultural Development, a firm founded by Ai but registered to his wife.

Ai - whose activism has made him a thorn in the side of China's communist authorities - disappeared into custody for 81 days last year as police rounded up dissidents and lawyers amid online calls for Arab Spring-style protests in China.

Upon his release in June, the artist was charged with tax evasion linked to Fake Cultural Development.

The Beijing tax bureau subsequently issued a bill for 15 million yuan in alleged back taxes in November, giving the artist 15 days to pay it or hand over an 8.45 million yuan guarantee.

Ai was able to pay the guarantee - needed by law to challenge the charge - because of a wave of donations from supporters.

Last week, Ai's lawyers handed in a 9,000-word document requesting the review, pointing out inconsistencies with the case, including unregulated police involvement in Ai's detention and violations of China's tax code.