Dissident artist Ai Weiwei [BBC profile] was banned on Wednesday from attending the first hearing in the case brought by his company, Fake Cultural Development Ltd., against Beijing tax authorities. The court was also closed to filming [AP report], denying access to reporters into the courthouse. Police officers stationed in front of Ai's house blocked him from going to the court hearing while registering journalists who sought to interview the dissident artist. Despite a small argument between Ai and the police officers, Ai ultimately complied. Ai's wife Lu Qing, the legal representative of her husband's company, attended the hearing with other lawyers and reported that during the hearing witnesses they requested were blocked from testifying including Ai. Other rights activists such as Hu Jia [advocacy blog; JURIST news archive] were also barred from attending the hearing.
In May, the Chinese court has agreed to hear [JURIST report] the case brought by Ai's company against the tax authority for the government's imposition of 15 million yuan (USD $2.4 million) tax evasion penalty. Ai had been accused and charged with tax evasion in November. Ai claims that by imposing such penalty, the government violated the tax law, and he is urging the court to overturn the tax bureau's rejection of his appeal against the penalty. The ruling was surprising [Reuters report] because Chinese courts have been denying, or rarely accepting, claims brought by dissidents and their relatives.