Saturday, 21 May 2011

Ai Weiwei Update

Finally 45 days after detaining artist Ai Weiwei, the government has come out and said the 54-year-old (his birthday was the other day) has committed tax evasion and deliberately destroyed evidence.

The report from Xinhua did not say when the charges would be laid.

Ai's mother, Gao Ying was furious over the latest announcement, saying the family still has not received official word of the police investigation or where he is being detained.

"It is horrible and shameful that a country touted for the rule of law has treated its own law like this," she said.

The Xinhua statement said Beijing Fake Cultural Development that is run by Ai was found to have evaded "a huge amount" of tax and "intentionally destroyed accounting documents", citing an initial police investigation.

The report added Ai was under "residential surveillance" called jianshi juzhu. According to Jerome Cohen, professor of law at New York University and expert in Chinese law, residential surveillance allows the police to avoid having to file the official charges within the 30-day deadline, and it is seen as an alternative to both detention and arrest, and the Chinese equivalent to bail.

Also in residential surveillance, those allegedly accused are allowed to see their loved ones.

Ai's sister Gao Ge said the charges of tax evasion are unfounded because she said Ai does not head the Beijing Fake Cultural Department. "He's not the company's legally designated representative or chief executive. We don't really understand the vague statement, but we don't believe there has been a huge amount of money involved in the company," she explained.

Friend and lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said Ai could face up to seven years in prison for tax evasion, but warned it was the second allegation of destroying evidence that could be very serious.

The Chinese authorities are hell bent on finding something -- anything -- to charge Ai on and they may have found it.

Hopefully the charges won't stick, though international pressure won't be of any help now since the allegations are of a financial nature.

We can only wait and see how this plays out.

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