Beijing in damage control over arrest, Ai claims
Ai Weiwei says charges of tax evasion levelled against him, as well as his release on bail, are excuses used by the mainland authorities to get out of the embarrassment created by arresting him in the first place.
The artist-activist told Radio Free Asia on Friday that he had never pleaded guilty to evading taxes, saying all the charges were unfounded. He criticised the authorities for not allowing public access to a hearing held last week over the alleged offence and outstanding tax bill of 12 million yuan (HK$14.5 million).
When reached yesterday, Ai said he was barred from accepting formal media interviews, but he confirmed his interview on Radio Free Asia, a Washington-based network.
His elder sister, Gao Ge, told Hong Kong Radio yesterday that a guilty plea was out of the question because her brother had yet to receive a writ from the police, nor was he was given due process of law.
However, Gao admitted that his release from detention last month came after he reached a deal with authorities, though she did not elaborate.
Ai, who tried to expose shoddy buildings in the wake of the deadly earthquake in Sichuan in May 2008, was detained before a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong on April 3. He was released on June 22 on bail because the government said he had confessed to charges of tax evasion and he has diabetes.
A closed-door hearing was held at the Beijing tax bureau on Thursday in which Beijing Fake Cultural Development, a company owned by his wife Lu Qing, formally appealed against the tax bill.