Beijing authorities say they are revoking the business licence of the art firm that handles dissident artist Ai Weiwei's affairs.
The firm, Beijing Fake Cultural Development, lost its final appeal last week against a 15 million yuan fine for tax evasion.
The artist posted on his Google+ blog yesterday a notice from the Chaoyang district bureau of the municipal Administration for Industry and Commerce saying it would revoke Fake's business licence. "Your company has not participated in the licence renewal for 2011 … our bureau plans to invalidate your business licence," it said.
Ai, 55, whose 81-day detention last year sparked an international outcry, said the firm received the notice - dated September 16 - on Sunday. The notice said the firm could appeal within three working days upon receipt. The mainland's weeklong National Day holidays will end on Sunday, with Monday, October 8, the first working day.
Beijing lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan , who is close to Ai, said: "We have been prepared for the government to announce the death sentence on his company. The licence renewal is a convenient excuse."
Ai wrote on his blog that the company had explained to licence reviewers last month why it could not submit the relevant documents for licence renewal.
"All financial documents and stamps of the Fake company have been confiscated … The company's tax payment account has been frozen by the tax authorities," he wrote.
Ai paid an 8.45 million yuan bond during his tax evasion appeal and said last week he did not intend to pay the remaining 6.6 million yuan after the firm lost its final appeal.
Liu said: "If the company no longer exists, how can it be held responsible for tax evasion?"
But Gu Ping, a Shenzhen lawyer who specialises in company law, said mainland law recognises the existence of a company that had lost its business licence. "[Anything] unpaid … can be collected from the company's owners or stock holders, with or without a business licence," she said.