Ai Hit With Huge Tax Bill

The move comes after Chinese authorities appear to have failed to pin him down on subversion charges.

Ai Weiwei (R) speaks to reporters outside his studio in Beijing, June 23, 2011.

Authorities in the Chinese capital have ordered artist and social critic Ai Weiwei to pay 15 million yuan (U.S. $2.97 million) in alleged back taxes, in spite of the fact that the company allegedly owing the money is owned by his wife Lu Qing.

The move comes after Ai's detention by Chinese police for 81 days at a secret location earlier this year which the government said was linked to investigations into alleged tax evasion at his company.

"They said it wasn't about human rights but about taxes during the 81 days they detained me," Ai said on Tuesday. "But I want to know how they calculated it; where are the records and the account-books?"

"None of this is clear," said Ai, 54, who first won international fame for his role in designing Beijing's "Bird's Nest" Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Ai said he had his doubts about the motivation behind the bill.

"Are they sending the message to people that evading tax is wrong, or are they telling them that this is a revenge fine perpetrated on an artist who holds incorrect opinions?" Ai said.

"What effect is it going to have on society if a country that is so great and powerful has to resort to such underhanded tactics?"


Lu rejected the decision by the authorities in an interview on Tuesday.

"I refuse to accept this punishment," she said. "I told them that we wanted our original documents back; we haven't got any of them."

Lu said she had refused to sign a slip acknowledging the tax bill.

"They have all of our documentation and we haven't even seen it," she said. "We need to know what is really owed to them, and if we're missing so much as a cent, we'll give it to them."

"They have our account books ... and while that's the case, we can't accept this fine."

Ai later posted on the microblogging service Twitter: "This has been dragging on for so long, and the ... company hasn't even seen a tax bill."

The bill was sent to him, as the "effective controller" of his Beijing-based company, Fake Cultural Development Ltd.

"I totally do not accept this 'effective controller' business," Ai wrote on Twitter. "It's nothing but robbery."

Legal consultations

Ai told Agence France-Presse that he was seeking to consult lawyers and tax experts over the bill, which he has 15 days to pay.

Beijing-based rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, who is a close friend of Ai, said the tax bill appeared to have been an afterthought on the part of the authorities, who had originally hoped to find evidence to support subversion charges.

"Looking back, it seems as if ... they searched his records [for political evidence] and couldn't find anything so then they changed it to 'economic' issues," Liu said.

Last month, a British art magazine named Ai Weiwei the "most powerful" world artist, sparking a barbed response from Beijing.

Ai, who is still under considerable restrictions at his Beijing home following his release from 81 days in detention in June, claimed the top spot on ArtReview's 10th annual "Power 100" list.

Ai's detention drew criticism from the United States, Australia, Britain, France, and Germany, as well as from Amnesty International and other international rights groups.

Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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Nov 02, 2011 03:09 AM

The authoritarian one-party CCP regime again reveals how vengeful and underhanded it is. Only an unusually submissive people as the Chinese would tolerate a regime for so many years that is so vicious and underhanded, and that has been responsible for so many brutal purges as the Cultural Revolution, and for so many deaths as the Great Leap Forward Famine.