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Only moral victory possible against China, dissident says

By the CNN Wire Staff
November 16, 2011 -- Updated 1626 GMT (0026 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Contributors ante up money for dissident
  • Ai isn't hopeful of a win
  • He says he had to pay the money to prevent his wife from being jailed
  • Laweyer: Ai fully intends to return the donations if he wins the case

Beijing (CNN) -- Outspoken dissident artist Ai Weiwei said he believes only a moral victory is possible against the Chinese government in his tax evasion case.

"I don't have much chance in the Chinese judicial system," Ai said. "The Tax Bureau is working for the police department. They are the same people. There's no real independent law case in China."

Ai paid $1.3 million this week so he can contest tax evasion charges brought against his company -- Fake Cultural Development Ltd. Had he not paid the sum, his wife -- who legally represents the company -- would have been jailed, he said.

The government says the company owes 15 million yuan ($2.3 million). The money was raised from 30,000 contributors, he said.

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His lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, added that Ai fully intends to return the donations if he wins the case and is refunded the money.

Now, Ai and his lawyer are trying to locate two missing company staffers who are the only ones to have allegedly seen the official tax evasion documents.

Ai said they were detained and severely interrogated and that police are "hiding them somewhere."

The artist said he expects Western nations to turn a blind eye to China's human rights record since they need Beijing's economic clout and ready cash reserves to finance their public debt.

"The United States and the Western nations, due to their economic problems ... they're shy to speak out for those base values and that's a big, big mistake," Ai said.

The artist was detained in April on allegations of tax evasion. However, his family and human rights advocates believe that the real reason for his imprisonment is his criticism of the Chinese government. Ai was released on bail in June because of his good attitude and medical concerns, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.

Local authorities held a closed hearing in July on the tax evasion allegations, despite demands for an open hearing from Ai and the company's lawyers. According to the artist, authorities also declined their demand to publish the accounting records and other evidence that lead to the tax evasion charge.

Ai told CNN earlier this month he was initially detained and imprisoned on charges of "subversion of state power," but upon his release the charge was changed to tax evasion.

"This is against judicial law, and is unethical. How can a country use this way to try to silence dissidents?" he asked.

"China always uses tax issues to cover up political issues. If the government keeps taking revenge on its dissidents with the law, it will only lead the country to its opposite side," Ai said.

Ai told CNN that the tax authorities he dealt with made it difficult for he and his wife to fix the situation; refusing to take their house as collateral and even insisting that their money was transferred into a specific account.

CNN's Jaime FlorCruz and Haolan Hong contributed to this report.

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