Artist Ai Weiwei is attempting to sue Beijing tax authorities for illegally obstructing his defence in a $2.4 million tax evasion case. The tax office told him two weeks ago that he would not be allowed to appeal its earlier ruling, which Ai claims was politically motivated. From Reuters
“In the handling of the whole process for Fake [Ai’s design company], some of their actions were illegal and violated regulations,” Ai told Reuters by telephone, adding that he is waiting to hear whether the court would agree to hear the suit.
The company’s lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, told Reuters previously that authorities had not shown him any original documents with evidence of the alleged tax evasion and held a closed hearing last July.
Pu said it was illegal for them to do so. Ai was barred from attending the hearing, but his wife, Lu Qing, was present.
Ai said officials had also prevented the company’s accountant and manager from communicating with Ai or his lawyer since the case began.
The court’s decision on whether to hear the case is expected within a week. In any case, Ai told The Wall Street Journal’s Carlos Tejada, he thought it “hard to say” whether he might succeed. “It’s really a case decided by high officials. Other people [below them] just try to fill in the blanks.”
The Economist’s Analects blog discussed Ai’s predicament following the order last week to shut down four webcams broadcasting from his studio-home:
It would seem a thoroughly Orwellian absurdity that police could put him under near-total surveillance while forbidding him from surveilling himself. Asked about this, Mr Ai thought for a moment before saying, “Yes, Orwell. Or maybe Kafka.”
Indeed, that description—part Orwellian and part Kafkaesque—applies to much of Mr Ai’s experience over the past year. While it is always the police who deal with him (and always very politely, he is quick to add), he has no idea who in the government is handling his case. “Nobody even knows. That’s so beautiful!” the artist said.
This, he said, is how the Chinese regime works. “It’s there, but it’s not there. It’s not there, but it’s there. So freedom, anyone who pushes extra, just a little bit further, is always dangerous for the people who want to have absolute control,” he said.