Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei lost his final appeal Thursday against a U.S. $2.4 million tax evasion fine and said he will not pay the remainder of the penalty that could land him in jail.
Beijing’s No. 2 Intermediate Court upheld the fine that was levied against Ai’s design company, Fake Cultural Development Ltd., last year in a penalty the artist has long considered political retaliation against his social activism.
Ai slammed the rejection of his appeal as a testament to the unfairness of China’s legal processes.
“This case is not about our Fake Company, but about the fairness and openness of the Chinese legal system,” he told RFA’s Mandarin service.
In the appeal, his second against the fine, Ai had accused the tax bureau of violating laws in handling witnesses, gathering evidence, and scrutinizing company accounts. But the court rejected the claims and the ruling cannot be appealed again.
“Since the beginning of the case, we have wrestled through many rounds with the authorities. Each time we wished that the police, the tax authorities, or the court could understand the problems hidden behind the so-called tax evasion charges,” Ai said.
“Now all our efforts have completely failed.”
Beijing-based rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, who accompanied Ai to the court’s announcement of the verdict, said the rejection of the appeal had been a foregone conclusion.
“The court cannot change its verdict for the first trial, and their purpose is simply to confirm that Ai Weiwei is wrong,” he told RFA’s Mandarin service.
Refusing to pay
Ai’s design company has posted a bond of 8.45 million yuan (U.S. $1.3 million) of the 15 million (U.S. $2.4 million) yuan fine, which will be automatically collected and put toward the fine.
But reiterating earlier refusals, Ai told reporters Thursday he will not pay the remaining 6.55 million yuan (U.S. $1.1 million), which could send him to prison.
"If I need to go to jail, there's nothing I can do about it," Ai said, according to Reuters news agency.
"This country has no fairness and justice, [and] even if I've paid the 6 million yuan, I still could possibly go to jail. They don't need an excuse to arrest me—they can always find another excuse at any time."
The bond was posted with the help of tens of thousands of supporters who sent in nearly 9 million yuan worth of small donations—sometimes in the form of bills folded into paper airplanes and thrown over the gate of his Beijing home—after Ai’s 81-day detention last year prompted an international outcry.
Ai was taken into custody at airport in April 2011 on his way to Hong Kong and held in a secret location, and the tax evasion charges were brought against him when he re-emerged in Beijing three months later.
The 55-year old contemporary artist, architect, filmmaker, and blogger has spoken out against the ruling Chinese Communist Party and accused the government of flouting the rule of law and the rights of citizens.
Throughout the case, authorities failed to follow basic procedures and have repeatedly denied Ai his legal rights, Ai told reporters.
Thursday’s ruling was made with no hearing held since the rejection of the previous appeal, even though his lawyers had new evidence to bring against the Beijing tax bureau, Ai said.
The court notified Ai’s wife Lu Qing, who is the legal owner of the company, of the announcement of the appeal verdict by telephone, instead of the required three-day written notice, he said.
One member of his legal team, Beijing-based rights advocate Pu Zhiqiang, was in France and could not make it back in time.
When a court delivered the verdict on the appeal in June of this year, large numbers of police prevented Ai from attending.
Authorities are holding on to Ai’s passport, effectively barring him from leaving the country.
Reported by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.