On Tuesday, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s company, Fake Cultural Development, was billed over 15 million yuan (US$2.4 million) in back taxes and penalties—a bill Ai has decided to fight. His supporters believe the bill is not for wrongdoing—tax evasion—but rather for what Ai has done right in supporting human rights.
Ai Weiwei reacted the same day on Twitter: “The result of the penalty is in fact beyond my imagination; I’m shocked, very sad, and listless.”
The authorities have required payment be made in 15 days; but Ai’s wife, Lu Qing, said the request had been rejected. Ai is determined to appeal.
“I decided to use my father’s house as a guaranty, and then go through an administrative reconsideration and appeal process.” Ai told Voice of America on Wednesday.
Ai told the BBC China news service in a phone interview that he will consult a lawyer and solve the problem under the rule of law for the sake of maintaining the dignity of the state and the law.
Appeal will not be easy. Ai, along with several of his associates, was detained in April on charges of tax evasion. Among those detained was Fake’s finance manager, Liu Zhenggang.
“The audit report of the company is not yet available; and the Finance manager, Liu Zhenggang, nearly died during the illegal custody,” Ai wrote on Twitter. “And after his release, he was sent back to his hometown on the condition that he not have any contact with the company nor have any discussion of the case.”
Ai Weiwei told the BBC that though the tax officials had explained that the tax bill was sent to the company, it actually was aimed at him personally.
He had explained to the authorities that as a designer, he has not taken part in any financial management of the company, Ai said to the BBC. Furthermore, as he is not its legal representative, he should not be involved in its tax problems. But he was told that he is its actual controller, Ai said.
Although he was arrested by the Chinese police due to “tax problems,” Ai said, the police questioned him while in detention about such issues as “subversion of state power.”
When Fake’s legal representative (and Ai’s wife) Lu Qing was interviewed by Radio Free Asia on Tuesday, she said, “I refuse to accept this penalty.”
“They have our book-keeping records in their hands,” Lu said. “And I simply cannot accept the penalty notice when I don’t have the original book-keeping records with me.”
Ai was detained for 81 days, released on probation in Beijing on June 23. One of the conditions of Ai’s probation prevents him from speaking openly on certain issues, and clearly the Chinese authorities are not pleased with how Ai has acted in the past few months.
The public widely considers the penalty against Fake as the Chinese authorities’ revenge and punishment for Ai’s human rights activities.
Ai’s supporters said the Chinese authorities consider him to be a thorn in the authorities’ side because of his outspoken criticism.
Ai Weiwei was absent from the opening ceremony of his art exhibition titled “Ai Weiwei, Absent” hosted at Taibei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan last week. The three-month exhibit displayed 15 pieces of ceramic, marble, and wood artworks, and 2 sets of photos with over 100 photos.
When Ai was arrested at Beijing airport on April 3, he was leaving for Taiwan to talk about the arrangements for this art exhibition.