Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to lose design firm licence

Ai Weiwei, 27 September 2012
Image caption Ai Weiwei was detained for three months last year

Officials in China are revoking the business licence of artist Ai Weiwei's company for failing to re-register.

Mr Ai told the BBC he would appeal, saying he was being punished for criticising the government.

He said it was impossible to re-register his Fake Cultural Development firm because officials had confiscated relevant documents.

The move follows his failed bid last week to challenge a tax evasion fine imposed on the firm.

Officials fined his firm 15m yuan ($2.4m, £1.5m) in 2011. The well-known dissident lost an appeal against the fine in July and a Beijing court last week rejected his challenge to that decision.

The 55-year-old is a designer for the firm, while his wife is its legal representative.

On Monday, Mr Ai posted online a notice from commerce officials from his district dated 16 September saying that they planned to revoke his firm's licence.

His lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, said that it was not clear when the firm would be closed or how this would affect the tax fine.

Mr Ai has said that he will not pay the remainder of the fine.

He told the BBC that the firm only related to his architectural work, and that he had not designed anything since 2008. He also said that his finances would not be affected by the firm's closure.

Ai Weiwei was detained for almost three months last year. After he was released, he was accused of tax evasion and the fine imposed.

The licence cancellation is the latest development that has pitted the artist against Chinese authorities, says the BBC's Martin Patience in Beijing.

Mr Ai is a high-profile critic of Communist Party rule which has made him many enemies, our correspondent adds.

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