20 Jun 2012

Ai Weiwei's lawyer missing as artist is warned away from tax hearing

The Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has said police are warning him to stay away from the court hearing on his lawsuit against a tax agency, which he accuses of illegally fining his company 15m yuan (£1.5m).

ai weiwei

Meanwhile Ai's legal consultant, Liu Xiaoyuan, has been unreachable since he was told to meet state security officers on Tuesday night, according to Ai and one of his employees, Liu Yanping. Liu Xiaoyuan did not answer calls to his mobile phone. Beijing's Chaoyang district court agreed last month to hear the lawsuit from the company that markets Ai's work, a departure from the courts' consistent refusal to give dissidents any hearing.

His supporters say the tax case, due to be heard later on Wednesday, is part of the government's drive to muzzle the outspoken social critic. Despite the court's acceptance of his lawsuit, Ai told Reuters that police called him repeatedly on Tuesday afternoon warning him not to turn up at the courthouse. "'You can never make it. Don't even try,'" Ai, 55, said police told him. He said they gave no reason.

The Guardian