Beijing: Beijing tax authorities are
seeking nearly USD 2 million in back taxes and fines from
outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was released last week
from nearly three months in detention, his close friend said
Ai was released on bail last Wednesday and Chinese
authorities said he confessed to tax evasion and pledged to
repay the money owed.
His family has denied he evaded any taxes and
activists have denounced the accusation as a false premise for
detaining Ai, who spoke out against the authoritarian
government and its repression of civil liberties.
The Beijing Local Taxation Bureau informed Ai that he
owed around USD 770,000 in unpaid taxes and would be fined
about USD 1.1 million totaling just over USD 1.85 million,
said Beijing human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan.
Liu does not legally represent Ai, but has been a
friend and supporter of the artist for many years.
Chinese authorities sometimes try to silence critics
by accusing them of tax violations or other non political
Ai, who has shown his work in London, New York and
Berlin, has earned huge sums selling his work at auctions and
Last year, Ai filled the Turbine Hall of London`s Tate
Modern art gallery with millions of handmade porcelain
sunflower seeds. A 100-kilogram pile of the seeds sold for
more than USD 550,000 at a Sotheby`s auction in February.
Ai`s mother, Gao Ying, said two tax bureau officials
delivered the notice to Ai yesterday and asked him to sign it
in acknowledgement but he refused. Gao said she was unclear
about the specifics in the notice, but that the alleged
violations took place over the past decade.
"We don`t know anything about these taxes," Gao said.
"These taxes date back 10 years. Why, at that time, if they
really had not paid their taxes, why did they not say anything
about it every year?"