Ai Weiwei Lawyer Accuses Beijing of Blocking Tax Settlement

Posted November 14th, 2011 at 6:20 am (UTC-5)
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A lawyer for world-renowned artist Ai Weiwei says Chinese authorities have thrown up new obstacles to a settlement of his client's tax case.

Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang told reporters Monday that tax officials are demanding that a $1.3 million deposit be paid directly into a tax bureau bank account, rather than a certificate of deposit as previously agreed.

Pu said he fears a payment into the tax bureau account could be construed as an admission of guilt by Ai, who was jailed for almost three months earlier this year. The dissident artist has been told the money must be deposited by Wednesday if he wishes to appeal an order saying he owes $2.4 million in back taxes.

Pu said he and his client have complied with all the government's directives, but he was turned down when he tried to deliver the money.

He charged that through its actions, the government is violating its own laws.

Ai, an outspoken government critic, was detained without charges for 81 days at the height of a government crackdown on dissidents. His supporters believe the arrest was part of a broader campaign to make sure that popular uprisings spreading through the Middle East did not spread to China.

Pu repeated that charge Monday, saying Ai is the victim of a political prosecution.

He urged the tax authorities to implement the law according to normal procedures and stop “acting foolishly” in the future.