原文标题：Chinese dissident Ai Wei Wei challenges tax evasion charges
Updated July 14, 2011 21:29:25
The design firm linked to dissident Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei is challenging a government bill of some 1.85 million US dollars in unpaid taxes and fines.
The beginning of the hearing coincides with an offer of a guest professorial post for Ai Wei Wei at the Berlin University.
Reporter: Kanaha Sabapathy
Speakers: Fu Hua Ling, Professor of Law, University of Hong Kong; Ai Wei Wei, Chinese dissident, Lu Qing, Ai's wife
Listen: Windows Media （采访香港大学法学教授的录音）
SABAPATHY: Ai Wei Wei was barred from attending the case but his wife Lu Qing, the legal representative for his design company Fake Cultural Development Limited attended court with their lawyer and an accountant.
But she claims that the case against them has been rigged.
LU: (translation) I think the hearing itself is already unfair to us. So far we have no documents from our own accountant, and the hearing is not open to the public, therefore I think the hearing is already biased against us.
SABAPATHY: At the heart of the case is the Chinese authority's claims that the company failed to pay some 770 thousand dollars in taxes over the last decade and added a fine of 1 point 1 million dollars to it.
Ai Wei Wei's family denies any tax evasion while activists say the accusations are a false premise to detain the artist.
Fu Hua Ling, professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong says China has a problem collecting taxes.
FU: China has been run as a central planned economy, tax was not an issue, paying tax is something new for the citizens so it has not been easy for the government to collect taxes. The problem for China is really the cash economy its very difficult to track to trace so enforcement is extremely difficult.
SABAPATHY: Ai Wei Wei is just one of many nouveau riche Chinese but a constant political thorn in the government's side.
An outspoken critic of China's leaders, an active participant in controversial social campaigns, Ai Wei Wei also called on the Chinese people to boycott the Olympics despite his input in the design and building of the birdnest stadium.
AI: I realised this project is not going to be used to encourage freedom and democracy but rather a strong political party's propaganda. So I feel very disappointed about this kind of opening performance which not allow the migrants to stay in Beijing, to limit all the citizens' normal activities just to show to the guests. I call this a fake smile which is against my ideology.
SABAPATHY: Professor Fu says the targetting of Mr Ai on tax evasion is without doubt a political move.
FU: I guess the position of the government is we may have done something that is unlawful you may have done something that is unlawful. If you challenge us we will challenge you. That has been consistent so when people criticise the government immediately the government will search their records and if you are a multi millionaire its not difficult to find some fault in your history.
SABAPATHY: Initial plans to charge Ai Wei Wei on criminal charges have been dropped and he now faces only charges of tax evasion.
Professor Fu says this makes the case less sensitive and easier for the government to close.
Now the offer of a guest professorial post at the Berlin University of the Arts for Ai Wei Wei provides another avenue for Beijing to rid itself of an irritant. Professor Fu.
FU: I doubt the government would have a strong interest to keep him in China. That has been the tradition, the best way to end the political career of someone is to send them elsewhere.
SABAPATHY: Ai Wei Wei has welcomed the offer but it's not clear when exactly he can leave the country. He is still under investigation and is legally bound to remain in the country till June next year. And its still to be seen if his company will fight the tax evasion charges or just pay it up and clear the way for his early exit.