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Chinese court upholds fine against artist

Famous Chinese artist and government critic Ai Weiwei on Friday lost an appeal against a multi-million fine slapped against him by the government for allegedly evading tax.

world Updated: Jul 21, 2012 00:30 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Famous Chinese artist and government critic Ai Weiwei on Friday lost an appeal against a multi-million fine slapped against him by the government for allegedly evading tax.

Ai is known for designing Beiijing’s showcase Olympic venue the Bird’s Nest stadium among other celebrated installation art and sculptures, which have been exhibited worldwide.

A 10-day screening of the artist's videos - 'Chairs for Ai Weiwei' was organised by Clark House, Mumbai earlier this year.

Ai wasn’t allowed to be present at the Beijing court when the verdict was delivered Friday morning amid heavy police presence.

Ai and his supporters have always maintained that the hefty fine was politically motivated; he had earlier been jailed in an unknown location for nearly three months last year after authorities here rounded up dissidents when online calls were made for Arab-spring style protests in Beijing.

On his release from detention last year he was accused of tax evasion linked to company Fake Cultural Development, and last November the Beijing tax bureau issued a bill for 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) in alleged back taxes and penalties.

At the time of his release, the Beijing police department said he was released on bail because of his “good attitude in confessing his crimes” as well as a chronic disease he suffers from.

The decision was taken also because Ai had apparently said he was willing to pay the taxes he evaded, police claimed.

According to the allegations, the Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, a company which the government alleges Ai controlled, was found to have evaded a huge amount of taxes and intentionally destroyed accounting documents, police said.

Friday's ruling comes eight months after Ai's lawyers handed $1.3 million in donations from his supporters to the Chinese authorities as a bond to clear the way for their appeal.

The money was raised from supporters who helped raise cash; some had even thrown money over the walls of his home.

According to agencies, 54-year-old, burly artist told reporters he was "very disappointed" by Friday's ruling -- which had been widely expected -- and would appeal it.

“China keeps telling other countries they are a rule of law country... But we only hope they implement the laws they themselves drew up,” AFP quoted him as saying.

Earlier, Ai had installed four web cameras streaming his activities under what he claimed was complete and continuous surveillance.