Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

China Bars Artist from Tax Hearing ; Hundreds of Supporters Gather near Court While AI Comments on Twitter

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

China Bars Artist from Tax Hearing ; Hundreds of Supporters Gather near Court While AI Comments on Twitter

Article excerpt

Ai Weiwei was told not to attend the proceedings of his lawsuit against the tax authorities. Instead, he took to Twitter while hundreds of his supporters gathered outside the court.

If the Chinese authorities thought that barring the artist Ai Weiwei from the courtroom hearing his lawsuit against tax officials might tamp down public interest in the matter, they must have been sorely disappointed.

On Wednesday, after the police told Mr. Ai he could not attend the legal proceedings and blocked scores of other dissidents from leaving their homes, hundreds of supporters showed up at the Chaoyang District Court in Beijing and chatted amiably outside the building, despite a small army of police officers, some of whom videotaped the crowd and led several people away.

While his wife and legal advisers sat in on the hearing, Mr. Ai, 55, took to Twitter, sending out messages that ridiculed the police and condemned their assault on one of his videographers as he filmed outside the gates of the artist's studio Wednesday morning. Mr. Ai posted a photograph of the filmmaker's injuries and a portrait of himself wearing a wide grin and an ill-fitting police uniform.

"By stopping me from going, they're not making the case smaller, they're exaggerating it," he said by telephone. "Now there are 10 times as many reports about this case as there were before."

He also expressed concerned for Liu Xiaoyuan, a legal consultant who had not been heard from since he was summoned by the police Tuesday night.

That the lawsuit has been allowed to proceed at all is itself remarkable. Mr. Ai's design company filed the case in April, not long after the authorities in Beijing ordered the company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development, to pay 15 million renminbi, or $2.4 million, in back taxes and penalties.

Mr. Ai asserts that the entire matter -- including the 81 days he spent in jail last year -- is intended to quell his provocative ways. After his release last June, Mr. Ai was instructed to remain in Beijing for a year and keep his mouth shut. Although he has yet to leave the capital, he has not exactly remained silent, despite police surveillance and warnings that he could be detained again at any time. …

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