Chinese police warn Ai Weiwei to avoid tax hearing
By Sui-Lee Wee
BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei said on Wednesday police had warned him to stay away from a court hearing his company's lawsuit challenging a demand for 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) for tax evasion.
Beijing's Chaoyang District Court agreed last month to hear the case brought by the company that markets Ai's work, a departure from consistent refusal by the courts, strictly controlled by the ruling Communist Party, to give dissidents any hearing.
His supporters say the case has been trumped up, part of a drive to muzzle the outspoken social critic. The hearing was still in progress late in the evening.
Ai said that despite the courts' acceptance of his lawsuit, police warned him not to attend the hearing, and sent several patrol cars to park outside the studio where he lives.
"'You can never make it. Don't even try,'" Ai, 55, said police told him. They gave no reason.
"This nation can have anything, they can have a satellite that goes to the sky and the moon, but they can never give you a clear reason why," he said. "This is ridiculous, right? There's no conversation, no discussion. Maybe they don't even know the reason. It's a really mysterious nation."
The bearded artist has been a persistent irritant to authorities and has parried efforts to silence him, communicating with his supporters on Twitter and calling for a public forum to discuss his tax case.
"From a certain perspective we already won the lawsuit early on as we have won over public opinion," Ai said. Continued...