Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei used Instagram in a stream of posts responding to the Chinese government, and its ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, who recently made comments about the artist’s arrest over alleged tax evasion; this has occurred as president Xi Jinping starts a high profile four-day state visit to Britain.
In the new Instagram post, the artist displays his tax documents, laid out in several rows, stating: “Chinese ambassador to the UK is not telling the truth. Here are all the tax documents that the police illegally seized and then returned along with my passport after four years.”
The artist followed up with a close-up documents, saying: “中国驻英大使刘晓明愿意和我一起聊聊“发课税案”吗？掩盖歪曲真相的国家是没有前途的，你不为自己的未来担忧吗?” Translated, it states: “Would the Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming be keen to discuss (his tax) case? A country that distorts its facts doesn’t have a future, aren’t you concerned about your future?”
Ai was reacting to Liu’s recent comments on the BBC, where the ambassador said Ai was “never put behind bars.” The ambassador continued his attack on the artist: “There are so many talented Chinese artists, many much better than him, why is he so famous? Because he’s critical of the Chinese government!” Liu told the BBC. “The reason he was under investigation was because of his economic crime. He was under suspicion of fraudulent accounting, destroying accounting documents,” the ambassador explained.
“Would the same artist be investigated with this criminal record in the UK?” Xiaoming asked.
Ai responded to this on Instagram, stating: “他们并不想发现一件并不存在的什么，而是要阻碍我们证明清白的证据,” he said, which translates to: “They didn’t find anything that didn’t exist, but just withheld evidence of my innocence.”
In 2010, Ai was briefly detained and severely beaten by security officials just before he was due to testify for the defence during the trial of Tan Zuoren, an environmental activist who, along with the artist, had documented the names of thousands of children who died during the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Ai was detained in 2011 for 81 days without charge. A company he founded was later convicted of tax evasion by the Chinese authorities. The artist remained under surveillance and was unable to leave the country, but was released on one year’s probation in June 2011, however the government retained his passport – which it recently returned to the artist prior to his survey at the Royal Academy of Arts as a celebration of his inclusion as an Honorary Royal Academician.
Photo: P A Black © 2015