by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 28, 2011
Chinese authorities have ordered Ai Weiwei to pay more than $1.9 million in back taxes and fines, a close friend said on Tuesday, just days after the artist was freed on bail.
Liu Xiaoyuan told AFP that the Beijing tax office had sent Ai -- who came home last week after nearly three months in detention -- a notice telling him to pay back 4.9 million yuan in taxes and another 7.3 million yuan in fines.
That would amount to more than 12 million yuan, or about $1.9 million.
Police have accused Ai of tax evasion and the government said he was freed because of his "good attitude" in admitting to the charges against him, his willingness to repay taxes he owes and on medical grounds. He has diabetes.
Rights groups have however said the outspoken 54-year-old, who is known for his fierce criticism of the ruling Communist Party, was detained as part of a wider clampdown on activists launched in February.
The detention of the avant-garde artist -- whose work was on display at London's Tate Modern gallery this year -- sparked an international outcry, with the United States and the European Union leading calls for his release.
Unusually, Ai has said little to the media since his release last Wednesday other than to assure people he is doing well and happy to be back with his family, sparking speculation he may have been ordered to stay quiet.
The terms of Ai's bail conditions prevent him from leaving Beijing "without permission", the foreign ministry said last week.
The artist has in the past angered authorities with his involvement in a number of sensitive activist campaigns.
He probed the collapse of schools in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, looked into a Shanghai high-rise fire last November that killed dozens, and says police beat him when he tried to testify on behalf of another activist in 2009.
In January, his newly built Shanghai studio was demolished in apparent retaliation for his criticism of city policies, and a month later Ai said his first large solo exhibition in mainland China was cancelled over political sensitivities.
earlier related report
In the first official comments about Hu's release at the weekend, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said he faced "deprivation of political rights" -- essentially a ban on political activities that typically bars media interviews.
One of China's leading rights activists and government critics, Hu returned to his Beijing home early on Sunday after completing a more than three-year sentence for subversion, his wife Zeng Jinyan said on Twitter.
Hu, 37, was jailed in April 2008, just months before the Beijing Olympics, after angering the ruling Communist Party through years of bold campaigning for civil rights, the environment and AIDS patients.
"Hu Jia is still in a situation where he is deprived of his political rights," Hong told reporters, without confirming the amount of time the condition would be in effect.
As such, Hu "cannot give interviews in the process and shall also be subject to supervision, administration and inspection from relevant departments in accordance with the law," he said.
Hu's wife had said he would be deprived of his political rights for a year. Chinese police have blocked access to his home, which indicates he will face restrictions on his movements and contacts.
His scheduled release came just days after outspoken artist Ai Weiwei returned to his home in the Chinese capital after nearly three months in police custody, amid a government crackdown on dissent.
In a phone interview with Hong Kong's Cable TV, Hu said he would like to resume his activism but is concerned about the impact that would have on his family.
He stressed the importance of "loyalty to morality, loyalty to the rights of citizens" but also said his relatives had encouraged him to "live an ordinary life" so as not to provoke the leadership in Beijing.
"I must try to console my parents and do what I can to console them... but I can only tell them I'll be careful," he added.
Hu is widely expected to be hit with the same strict curbs as those apparently applied to Ai and a range of other activists and rights lawyers, who seem to have been ordered to keep quiet after their release from custody.
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Wen in Germany warns against rights lectures
Berlin (AFP) June 28, 2011
Germany and China held their first joint cabinet meeting Tuesday and were to ink billions in new business contracts, but Premier Wen Jiabao warned Europe against interfering in its internal affairs. Wen arrived in Berlin late Monday from London where he and British Prime Minister David Cameron signed trade deals worth 1.6 billion euros while the Chinese premier brushed aside questions over B ... read more
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