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Ai talks to the foreign media outside a court in Beijing, on September 27/AFP

Kenya

China court rejects artist Ai Weiwei’s tax appeal

Ai talks to the foreign media outside a court in Beijing, on September 27/AFP

BEIJING, Sep 27 – A Chinese court has rejected Ai Weiwei’s appeal against a hefty fine for alleged tax evasion, the acclaimed artist and government critic said on Thursday, adding angrily that he was blocked from presenting his case.

“No change in the original verdict,” Ai told reporters outside the Beijing court where the ruling was issued.

“The court completely refused to respect the facts, they did not give us a chance to present our case and ignored the rights of the tax payer. No matter on questions of legal procedure or facts, they just refused to listen.”

Ai, 55, had been seeking an open trial on the allegations of tax evasion by the company he founded, Fake Cultural Development, which had resulted in a $2.4 million fine by the Beijing tax bureau last year.

The burly, wispy-bearded avant-garde artist, who denies the accusation, said the ruling by the intermediate court marked his last chance to contest the fine in court.

“The court acted shamelessly. I never, ever thought the court could ignore the facts in such a way and be so arbitrary. This makes me feel that the court is shameless,” Ai said.

The son of a poet revered by China’s early Communist leaders, Ai helped design the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Games, an event that brought worldwide prestige to the ruling Communist Party.

But the painter, sculptor, photographer and architect has since emerged as a fierce government critic, often through his prolific use of the Internet and social media.

He has called the tax accusation an attempt by China’s communist authorities to “crush” him for his activism.

His outspoken criticism of China’s leaders – he has referred to them as “gangsters” – and involvement in sensitive social campaigns have since made him a thorn in the government’s side.

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