By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch, Asia
BEIJING, China -Wednesday, Chinese authorities prevented artist Ai Weiwei from attending his company’s first court hearing against Beijing tax authorities. According to Weiwei, they proffered no explanation.
“This society has become a scary and dangerous one now, because there are too many things that violate people’s rights and that happen with no explanation,” stated Weiwei.
Despite police officers’ attempts to bar many Weiwei supporters from leaving their homes, hundreds were still able to rally outside the Chaoyang District Court.
In 2011, Chinese authorities detained Weiwei for three months. In addition, the government sanctioned Weiwei’s design company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., to a 15M yuan ($2.35M) fine for back taxes. Weiwei’s wife and legal representative, Lu Qing, has spearheaded an appeal on behalf of the company against the fine. Qing has also filed a separate action alleging witness and evidence mishandling by the tax bureau.
Through his work and political activism, the 54-year-old artist has earned the reverence of most in both the political and artistic communities outside of China. The Art Review deemed Weiwei the most powerful artist in the world.
“Ai’s activities have allowed artists to move away from the idea that they work within a privileged zone limited by the walls of a gallery or museum. They have reminded his colleagues and the world at large of the fact that freedom of expression is a basic right of any human being.”
Political activists and other Weiwei supporters purport that a direct correlation exists between his punishment and his criticism of the Chinese government.
Since his release, the authorities have forbidden Weiwei to travel outside of China. Moreover, Weiwei is under steady surveillance.
“They didn’t return my passport, I just realized that,” Weiwei said. “And they didn’t return my computers. You know, because for subversion of state power, they want to try to find every trace. But they can’t find anything, I guess. I mean, they owe me to say sorry. But of course they would never do it. It’s over, but it’s never totally over. You are still not allowed to go abroad.”
In addition to the pending litigation, Weiwei may face other charges: pornography, bigamy, and illicit exchange of foreign currency. However, there is no certainty whether the authorities will pursue these suspected crimes.
Despite authorities’ alleged attempts to stop or at least deter criticism directed at them, Weiwei continues to fight his censure through banned social networks such as Twitter.
For further information, please see:
NPR-Ai Weiwei Says He is Barred From Leaving China– 21 June 2012
Voice of America-Ai Weiwei: Still Can’t Leave China– 21 June 2012
Guardian-Ai Weiwei barred from court hearing by Chinese police– 20 June 2012
New York Times- Chinese Artist Is Barred From His Own Hearing-20 June 2012