Spurious tax evasion charge against dissident artist Ai Weiwei to be reviewed
Beijing tax authorities have agreed to review their ruling that Chinese artist/activist Ai Weiwei pay a multimillion dollar fine for ‘tax evasion’. The dissident artist reported that tax officials had informed him of this development last week, on Wednesday, by telephone. They told him that the reviews would be completed within two months. Ai Weiwei is optimistic, hopeful that they would review the case ‘earnestly and transparently’.
And the stakes are high: ‘How they handle this relates to issues of China’s rule of law and the safety of its people’, he said; ‘It has very broad implications. If they can’t resolve this issue very fairly and carefully, it will be bring harm to this society’s justice system.’
The Beijing tax bureau is currently demanding that Ai Weiwei pay 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) in taxes and fines. The accusations of tax evasion against Ai Weiwei are merely the latest developments in a catalogue of government harassment. Earlier this year, Ai was detained for nearly three months during a general crackdown on dissent in china. These actions against Ai Weiwei have been interpreted by activists as government punishment for his often-outspoken criticism of the Chinese regime.
And his supporters have been quick to get behind him on the ‘tax evasion’ charge, the artist reportedly received over 5.3 million yuan ($840,000) from almost 20,000 sympathetic donors, in just one week! The donations ended up totalling nearly 8.7 million yuan ($1.4 million), which was used to pay a guarantee to the tax bureau. He was also given a symbolic 100 euro ($137) donation from the German government’s human rights commissioner.
The donation campaign — which involved a variety of unorthodox methods, from smuggling money in paper airplanes, and even wrapping bills around fruit thrown over the fence into his property – has, of course, been condemned as illegal by a state-run newspaper, Global Times. And the support being shown for Ai Weiwei on this occasion is unusual due to fears of the government retribution that be prompted by supporting high-profile dissidents.
Ai Weiwei sees this development as a very good sign for the future, explaining that ‘It shows that in the Internet age, society will have its own judgment and its own values’, and applauds the ‘group of people who want to express their views [and] are using their money to cast their votes’: ‘People are using these methods to re-examine the accusation that I evaded taxes’, he added.
Responding to state criticism that, as one of the world’s most successful artists, he is hardly needs to borrow money, Ai Weiwei commented, ‘Yes, I am very wealthy, but this is a separate issue’; ‘I will repay every cent of the loans. One person’s innocence is tied together to a country’s innocence. I’m not doing this to profit myself.’ This fact is evident in the messages of support that companied many of the donations, with one reading, ‘The whole family has been mobilized, everyone will be creditors’.
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