Ai Weiwei accused of ‘huge’ tax evasion

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Ai Weiwei accused of ‘huge’ tax evasion


Anish Kapoor, right, helps deliver a petition calling for the release of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to Downing Street, London, last week. [AP]

BEIJING - A company that China says is controlled by artist Ai Weiwei was accused of massive tax evasion in the government’s clearest disclosure yet about its investigation of the activist detained for more than six weeks.

The investigation also found that Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd. had intentionally destroyed accounting documents, the official Xinhua News Agency said Friday, citing unidentified police investigators. The brief report gave no other details and did not quantify the “huge amount” of tax the company is accused of not paying.

Ai’s family and supporters have previously dismissed similar accusations, and his wife, Lu Qing, says the company in question is registered and belongs to her, not him. The company handles the business aspects of his art career.

Also Friday, outspoken lawyer and legal scholar Xu Zhiyong was bundled away from Beijing by unknown people, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said. Xu, who was detained for alleged tax evasion in 2009 but was later released on bail, text messaged a friend that he was “being taken away to the suburbs,” the center said. It said authorities appeared to be revoking Xu’s bail in the earlier investigation as part of a new tactic of using charges of economic crimes to silence activists.

Ai is among China’s best-known artists internationally and helped design the iconic Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium. He is also the co-director of the Gwangju Design Biennale 2011, Korea’s big design and art event.

Famed for his groundbreaking art and irreverence toward authority, he was picked up at Beijing’s airport on April 3 and is being held under a form of detention known as residential surveillance somewhere outside Beijing.

His detention has prompted an international outcry and Western leaders have called it a sign of China’s deteriorating human rights. His family and supporters say he is being punished for speaking out about the communist leadership and social problems.

Before he disappeared, Ai had been keeping a tally of the recent detentions on Twitter.

Ai has also spoken critically about a number of national scandals, including the deaths of students in shoddily built schools that collapsed during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, children killed or sickened by tainted infant formula.

Lu was permitted to see Ai last Sunday for a brief, monitored meeting that was his first contact with the outside world in 43 days.

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