Chinese artist Ai Weiwei faces new hurdles in tax case

Mon Nov 14, 2011 3:55pm EST
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By Ben Blanchard and Chris Buckley

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese authorities are setting hurdles for artist-activist Ai Weiwei to pay a bond that would let him appeal a tax fine his backers have called a political vendetta, threatening to complicate his legal battle, one of his lawyers said Monday.

Ai, whose secretive 81-day detention this year sparked worldwide attention, has until Wednesday to lodge collateral that would allow him to contest a 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) fine for tax evasion, which he denies.

But the government is demanding he pay the 8.4 million yuan bond in cash straight into a tax bureau bank account, something his lawyer Pu Zhiqiang said lacked legal provision. The government is also refusing to accept Ai's mother's house as collateral, Pu added.

"We have done everything we were supposed to do," Pu told reporters at Ai's house in northeastern Beijing. "I'm worried that they will think we have not paid the bond and then will restrict our ability to appeal."

Ai's lawyers were "thinking of ways to resolve this issue for the government," Pu added.

Ai says authorities have not shown him evidence of the alleged tax evasion and have told the manager and accountant of Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., which is the company accused of evading taxes, not to meet him.

According to Ai, the Public Security Bureau has deemed him to be the "controlling person" of the company, although his wife is the legal representative. Ai has said that if he did not pay the penalty, his wife could go to jail.

Since Ai's detention and subsequent release, the bearded and burly artist has become the most internationally prominent face of China's circles of dissidents and human rights activists.   Continued...

<p>Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei walks to the door of his home after talking to his lawyers in Beijing November 14, 2011. REUTERS/David Gray</p>