Chinese Police Probe Firm Linked to Dissident Artist
Beijing. A Chinese lawyer involved in Ai Weiwei’s tax case said on Wednesday that police were examining accounts at his law firm, just as the controversial artist and activist’s wife was taken in for questioning.
Pu Zhiqiang, the lawyer for a company founded by Ai that was accused of tax evasion after the artist was released from 81 days in detention earlier this year, said police had visited his Huayi Law Firm on Tuesday.
“They said they wanted us to assist them in solving a case and photocopied this year’s account documents,” Pu said, adding that he did not know if the visit had been related to Ai Weiwei.
The police visit happened on the same day that Ai’s wife Lu Qing was summoned by police and interrogated for three hours as a “criminal suspect,” although it was unclear of what crime she was suspected.
Ai, whose activism has made him a thorn in the side of China’s Communist authorities, was charged on his release in June with tax evasion linked to Fake Cultural Development, a firm he founded but that is legally owned by his wife.
Pu, one of Fake’s lawyers, has helped Ai fight the charges, which the artist denies, calling them “politically motivated.”
Earlier this month, the 54-year-old was handed a bill for 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) in alleged back taxes. Within weeks of receiving the bill, he was able to pay the 8.45 million yuan guarantee needed to challenge the charge thanks to donations from supporters of his activism.
During her interrogation, Lu said police asked her about Fake and told her not to leave Beijing.
Ai’s problems with authorities started when he began investigating the collapse of schools in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and a 2010 fire at a Shanghai high-rise that killed dozens.
This week, the influential US-based periodical Foreign Policy ranked Ai No. 18 on its list of top 100 global thinkers.