Authorities in the Chinese capital have upheld a U.S.$2.4 million tax evasion fine issued to outspoken artist Ai Weiwei, who has vowed to continue his campaign against the penalty.
Beijing's Chaoyang District People's Court ruled on Friday that the fines levied by the state taxation bureau on Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., a company Ai founded and which is now legally owned by his wife, Lu Qing, should stand.
Ai, who was prevented by large numbers of police from hearing the decision delivered in court, immediately vowed to keep fighting the decision, which he says is a form of official retaliation for his criticisms of the ruling Chinese Communist Party and his social activism.
"Today, the government has deployed such a huge police presence and so much force, that the whole thing from start to finish was absurdly comical," Ai told RFA's Cantonese service. "I think it's ridiculous and a stupid thing to do."
Ai said the decision against him was clearly illegal, and indicated the serious problems within the Chinese judicial system.
"Today's verdict shows that mainland China has never, in its entire 60-year history, never adhered to legal procedures and never had any respect for the facts," he said.
"Neither has it ever given taxpayers and citizens the chance to defend themselves."
However, Ai said he still plans to appeal the decision to a higher court, taking the case as far as China's Supreme People's Court, if necessary.
"This entire case right from the start has been a case of framing and perjury on their part," he said. "They have blackened my name via Xinhua news agency, on domestic and overseas websites, and in the Hong Kong newspapers."
"In reality, there has never been any tax evasion [at my company]."
Ai has already posted just over 8.4 million yuan (U.S.$1.3 million) as a bond for his appeal to the tax bureau, but said he had no plans to pay the remaining 7 million (U.S.$1.1 million) that the government says he still owes.
Ai's lawyer Pu Zhiqiang confirmed the move following discussions with Ai's wife Lu Qing.
"We will be submitting our application for an appeal within the next 15 days," Pu said. "I think this case has been decided entirely outside the law."
An employee surnamed Lu who answered the phone at the Fake Cultural Development Co. denied that any wrongdoing had taken place.
"This entire tax case has been an attempt to blacken his name," she said. "It is totally unjust and the charges are trumped up."
But she said she found it hard to believe that the government could ever back down.
"Now that they have made this decision, they'll never admit they were wrong," Lu said. "They'll just carry on being wrong, right through all the courts, so I don't hold out any hope."
Ai and his lawyers have said the tax charges are a political backlash against his vocal activism on behalf of China's least-privileged people.
The bill and fine were issued to Ai's design company following the artist's 81-day detention by police at a secret location last year, which sparked an international outcry that prompted an angry response from Beijing.
The tax bill prompted tens of thousands of Ai's supporters to send small donations that ended up totaling nearly 8.7 million yuan ($1.4 million), which was used to pay a guarantee to the tax bureau. Some donations were folded into paper airplanes or wrapped around fruit and thrown over the gate at his home.
He was also given a symbolic 100 euro (U.S. $137) donation from the German government's human rights commissioner.
Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.