Prominent Chinese economist found guilty of ‘artistic crimes’


Economics Correspondent

Police deny the case has anything to do with Ai Weiwei

BEIJING (China Daily Show) – A well-known Chinese economist has lost his appeal against charges of artistic evasion.

Ever since renowned taxation pundit Lu Tao was apprehended at Shanghai airport last year, while boarding a plane to Macau to lecture on revaluation of the yuan, calls have been growing for the Chinese courts to overturn their decision to fine the rogue economist.

Many believe the true reason for the case was Lu’s inflammatory speech regarding the inappropriateness of Keynesian analysis for examining fluctuations in the market price of shale gas, delivered at the Harvard Business School last March.

The economist’s outspoken criticisms of flagship Chinese economic policies are believed to have angered finance ministers.

Although the chubby neo-liberal – nicknamed “Fatty” Lu – made a name for himself on the international economics scene long before his arrest, it was the decision to charge him with so-called “artistic crimes” that sent shockwaves through the media last year, and catapulted Lu to greater fame.

Although Lu himself says the charges were “frivolous,” Beijing has denied that the case is connected with Lu’s economic activities.

“Lu Tao’s arrest has nothing to do with his economic principles or his academic output,” a spokesman told foreign media in one of the government’s few official statements on the matter. “This is a legal case, according to local laws and customs.”

Beijing has instead waged a propaganda war against Lu through various mouthpieces, such as an editorial in the Hong Kong state-backed newspaper Wen Wei Po, which claimed that “Lu secretly pursued a painting career while posing as an economist.”

The anonymous writer claimed that police had found evidence of several “poorly-realized traditional Chinese landscapes on canvas,” adding that their “amateur draughtsmanship” represented a “deliberate insult to the aesthetic principles of our 5,000-year-old culture, as cherished and preserved by the Communist Party.”

Although friends say the paintings merely represent Lu’s amateur drawing habit and “aren’t bad,” that didn’t stop Beijing police from confiscating artistic materials – including paintbrushes, a pastels set and several sheets of stiff-backed parchment – from his university offices.

Lu’s wife Zhang Yuqin, who is believed to have sat for one of her husband’s incendiary attempts at Impressionist portraiture, was also questioned.

Wen Wei Po said the sketches were “risible” and “offended police” but fellow economics professor Lin Dehua told China Daily Show that “it is abundantly clear these ‘artistic evasion’ charges are not really about the fact that Lu is a famously atrocious illustrator.”

According to Lin, “this case has everything to do with the relevance of Hegelian theory in assessing the historical significance of the Gold Standard.”

Lu’s opposition to corruption is well-documented and controversial passages in his twelve-volume, banned bestseller Be More Like Belgium (2009) – asserting that trickle-down economics is only applicable to developed and centralized societies –are said to have infuriated senior officials.

“Lu’s pencil drawings may be relatively unaccomplished, but did the police just happen to hone in on a doodler who also has a flawless command of the intricacies of economic transformation in China’s post-socialist marketplace?” Professor Lin asked. “Please.”

Lin said that Lu was a public figure who frightened the Party.

“Let’s be honest,” he added, “if anyone’s going to be a figurehead for a Chinese revolution, it’s an economist.”

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