Ai Weiwei Appeals Tax Bill

But he puts up bond ahead of deadline.

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

Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has lodged an appeal against a 15 million yuan (U.S. $2.7 million) tax bill handed to him earlier this month, but is being required to pay half the bill as a guarantee.

"I have to put up a deposit of 8.45 million yuan [U.S. $1.33 million] on behalf of Fake Cultural Development Co. into a tax bureau account," Ai said Tuesday, referring to the company which helped produce his internationally renowned art and designs and is owned by his wife, Lu Qing, the firm's legal representative.

"If I don't accept this, then the [Wednesday] deadline [for payment of the full amount] will have passed."

Ai hit out at the billing process as opaque and unjust. "This is where we have got to, and we don't have any choice," he said.

"It is a very powerless feeling, for a citizen not to be able to use the law to defend themselves."

The bill followed Ai's 81-day detention by police at a secret location earlier this year, which sparked an international outcry and prompted an angry response from Beijing.

Official media reports later said he was being detained under investigation for "economic crimes," but Ai and his lawyers suspect the tax charges are a political backlash against his vocal activism on behalf of China's least privileged people.


Du Yanlin, a lawyer for Fake Cultural Development, said the tax bureau was still issuing all its documentation in the artist's name, not Lu's, even though she was the legal owner.

"There isn't much else we can do," Du said. "We will have to make this concession and proceed by exercising our right of administrative appeal."

"If the appeal tribunal upholds the original decision, then the tax bureau will have the right to appropriate the deposit, although we can still appeal again," he said.

Thousands of Chinese netizens have rallied in support of Ai and his family in recent weeks, sending at least 8.7 million yuan (U.S. $1.4 million) via online payment services, or lobbing cash as folded paper airplanes over the gates of his Beijing courtyard home.

The response came after Ai's mother Gao Ying said she stood ready to mortgage the family home.

Ai's wife, Lu Qing, said the family had been planning to appeal all along, but that they had only had a couple of weeks to prepare their case.

"The money is all in place," she said. "All the money sent by netizens has been put in Ai Weiwei's bank account and we had hoped to give them a certificate of deposit, but they said no."

"They said the only way we could proceed would be by transferring the money into their account," she said.


However, the nationwide movement to help Ai out of his difficulties has had repercussions for rights activists across China.

"Last Wednesday [the state security police] came to see me," said Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia. "They wanted mainly to talk about the Ai Weiwei affair, which had now become a huge deal."

"They warned us not to call on everyone to go to Caochangdi," said Hu, referring to the location of Ai's studio.

Beijing-based rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong said many fellow lawyers had received similar visits from state security police.

"They [want to talk] about two things, mainly. One is [blind Shandong activist Chen Guangcheng] and the other is Ai Weiwei," Jiang said.

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 16, 2011 01:45 AM

The PRC National Security Police's preoccupation with the Ai Weiwei and Chen Guangcheng persecution cases suggests that the matter is being overseen at the highest levels of the Party-state, namely the security chieftains around top security chief Li Changchun of the Politburo Standing Committee. This is a particularly vicious cat-and-mouse game being played by the CCP version of the KGB.

Nov 16, 2011 01:47 AM