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China piles more pressure on artist Ai Weiwei

BEIJING -- China's most famous political dissident, Ai Weiwei, said on Tuesday authorities have revoked the business licence of the company that produces his art in what he maintains is a trumped up case for criticizing the government.

The world-renowned artist, who faces a possible jail sentence on tax evasion charges, cited authorities as saying the company had failed to complete re-registration requirements.

Ai said the company was unable to register because the necessary documents to file an annual report were being held by the government.

Authorities confiscated papers and computers from him after he was taken into custody last year, he said. The 81-day detention raised an international outcry.

“They've returned computers, but not the accounting documents related to taxes,” the 55-year-old said, adding he received a notice on Sunday from public security authorities informing him that the licence was being revoked.

“As a tax issue, it shouldn't be public security departments getting involved,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview. “They should return the documents to me.”

Activists see the tax evasion case as an attempt to muzzle the outspoken artist, who has repeatedly criticised the Chinese government for flouting the rule of law and the rights of citizens.

A Chinese court last month upheld a US$2.4 million tax evasion fine against Ai, meaning he risks arrest if he does not pay a remaining fine of around 6.6 million yuan (US$1.05 million).

Ai said if the government shuts the company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, then there will be no way to pay any further fines.

“If they shut down the company, then entities to pay any fine will not exist,” Ai said. “I feel this waives any penalties for the company.”

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