China court rejects dissident artist's tax evasion appeal

[JURIST] Beijing's Second Intermediate People's Court [official website, in Chinese] on Thursday denied an appeal by dissident artist Ai Weiwei [BBC profile] challenging a 15 million yuan (USD $2.4 million) fine for back taxes. The Chinese government levied the fine against Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., the company that promotes Ai's work. Ai denounced the court's decision [Bloomberg report] as politically motivated and lacking in evidence and declared that he will not pay the fine. The court stated that it rejected Ai's appeal because it "lacked relevant facts and legal bases" [WSJ report]. It is unclear if Ai plans to appeal the ruling to a higher court.

Ai spent 81 days in secret detention last year. In July the Chaoyang District Court rejected another tax penalty appeal by Ai [JURIST report]. In June the court banned Ai from attending [JURIST report] the first hearing in the case and further banned him from attending any hearings, including the delivery of the verdict. Ai's wife Lu Qing, the legal representative of Fake Cultural Development, 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. The court also closed the five-seat chamber to journalists and filming. The court agreed to hear [JURIST report] the case in May, surprising many with its ruling since Chinese courts rarely accept appeals claims brought by dissidents and their relatives.

 

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