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Ai barred from tax row court case

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Artist Ai Weiwei's company is taking legal action against Chinese authorities

Artist Ai Weiwei's company is taking legal action against Chinese authorities

Artist Ai Weiwei's company is taking legal action against Chinese authorities

Chinese police have barred artist Ai Weiwei from attending the first hearing of a legal case brought by his company against Beijing tax authorities and blocked reporters from filming at the courthouse.

He told reporters that police had ordered him to stay inside his courtyard home in north east Beijing and steer clear of the courts. He said he agreed.

The order appeared to be part of an intimidation campaign aimed at silencing the prominent artist and outspoken government critic.

Chinese authorities view Ai as a troublemaker. They detained him for three months last year and his design company was ordered to pay 15 million yuan (£1.5 million) in back taxes and fines.

The company has appealed against the fine and separately filed a suit earlier this year against the tax bureau for allegedly violating laws in handling witnesses, evidence and company accounts in the case.

To the surprise of many, the suit was accepted.

Ai's wife, who is the legal representative of his design company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development, went to the hearing with several lawyers and an accountant.

Plainclothes and uniformed police were stationed outside Ai's home and studio on Wednesday, registering journalists who showed up to interview Ai and report on his case.

Ai argued briefly with them and demanded to know why they were interrogating his visitors. Reporters were also blocked from filming at the courthouse.

Since he emerged from detention last year, Ai has been refused permission to travel and is under constant surveillance. He still frequently criticises the government on Twitter, which is blocked in China but accessible to tech-savvy citizens.

PA