In an email to ArtAsiaPacific, a representative from Ai’s studio confirmed that, although his bail has been lifted and “he is free,” the government will maintain travel restrictions prohibiting him from leaving the country, and have kept his passport, citing a separate, ongoing investigation on pornography charges, from November 2011, over Ai’s piece One Tiger Eight Breasts, a photograph of the artist and four women posing nude in his studio.
On Wednesday, Ai’s home was surrounded by dozens of police, who prevented him from attending the court hearing for his design company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd. The company was fined 15 million Yuan (USD 2.4 million) last year when Ai was detained, but appealed the penalty. Despite the frustrated proceedings, some online commentators have noted that, contrary to common practice in China, which tends to ignore appeals by those considered dissidents, Ai’s tax case is particular in having been granted a court hearing.
Lu Qing, Ai’s wife and the legal representative of the company, attended court in his place, accompanied by three lawyers. The hearing lasted over eight hours, yet the court will still have until early August to announce a ruling.