Chinese artist and fierce government critic Ai Weiwei has lost his appeal against a hefty fine on a company he founded. The dissident maintains that the charges are political.
The Beijing Chaoyang court on Friday rejected the appeal against Fake Cultural Development Ltd, a firm founded by Ai Weiwei, but legally registered to his wife.
The court declined to overrule the tax evasion fine totaling $2.4 million (1.95 million euros) against 55-year-old artist and activist Ai, who strongly condemned the legal decision.
"Today's verdict shows that this country, more than 60 years after its founding still has no basic legal process, still has no respect for the truth, still will never give taxpayers and citizens an ability to justify themselves," Ai said after the ruling.
"The entire judiciary is shrouded in darkness," he told reporters at his home.
Ai had appealed against the penalty imposed on the company, which produces his art and designs. Ahead of the hearing, from which he said he had been barred, Ai said he had "absolutely no hope" of winning. However, he said he would press on with legal challenges to the government.
Ai, who spent 81 days in secret detention last year after police rounded up dissidents, is still not allowed to leave China.
On his release from custody, he was accused of tax evasion linked to the firm. Last November the Beijing tax bureau issued the company with a bill in alleged back taxes and penalties. Ai claims the charges are politically motivated and are designed to "crush" his activism.
Among previous actions believed to have angered the government have been his investigations into the collapse of schools during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and a deadly fire in 2010 at a Shanghai high-rise building.
rc/ipj (AFP, AP, Reuters)