原文标题：China Moves Forward in Tax Case Against Dissident Artist
Published: July 14, 2011
BEIJING — The Chinese authorities have accused the design company that handles the work of the artist and dissident Ai Weiwei of failing to pay corporate taxes since 2000, according to his wife, Lu Qing, who attended a hearing with tax officials on Thursday.
The hearing, which was also attended by a lawyer and an accountant, suggests the government is undaunted in its effort to collect nearly $2 million in back taxes and penalties from the design company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd.
Ms. Lu, who is the company’s legal representative, rejected the government’s allegations and complained that tax officials did not provide copies of documents that were reportedly confiscated from Mr. Ai’s studio shortly after he and several associates were detained last spring. “My lawyers and I have no way of verifying that the papers belong to the company,” she said.
By law, the documents should be returned within three months of their seizure, said Pu Zhiqiang, another lawyer retained by the company.
Mr. Ai, who was held 81 days at an undisclosed location, was released on June 22 but he is not allowed to leave the capital for a year without permission from the authorities. Officials have told state media that Mr. Ai had earned his freedom in part by confessing to not paying taxes.
The $1.85 million owed to the government includes $770,000, or nearly 5 million renminbi, in back taxes and $1.1 million, or 7.3 million renminbi, in fines.
The police and tax bureau officials have declined to comment on the case, which Mr. Ai’s supporters suggest is politically driven. In addition to his work as a visual artist, architect and documentary filmmaker, Mr. Ai, 54, in recent years has embraced the role of Communist Party critic using his celebrity and family pedigree — his father was a revered poet — to shield himself from government retribution. That protection, it appears, has largely run out.
In a phone interview Thursday, Ms. Lu said her husband should not be held responsible for the finances of the company because he is merely an employee. She also complained that the hearing, contrary to the tax bureau regulations, was closed to the public. “I simply wish the authorities would respect the law, stop breaking it and proceed with the case legally,” she said, referring to their refusal to provide copies of documents. “We have no way of verifying whether the authorities are abusing their power.”
Mia Li contributed research.