BEIJING – Activist artist Ai Weiwei believes a tax evasion case was meant to intimidate him, but losing his challenge to the $2.4 million fine Friday did not silence his criticism of China’s government.
“Today’s verdict means that after 60 years of the founding of our nation, we still lack the basic legal procedures, the truth is not respected, and they do not give taxpayers or citizens any rights to defend oneself,” Ai told reporters at his design studio, where he stayed because police told him he was not allowed to attend the hearing. “The whole legal system is in a dark state right now.”
Ai and his supporters interpret the penalty Beijing tax authorities levied on his design company last year as official retaliation against his activism. He paid the guarantee in part with donations via wire transfers or from supporters who stuffed cash into envelopes or wrapped bills around fruit and threw the items into his yard.
An internationally known sculptor, photographer and installation artist, he has used his art and online profile to draw attention to injustices in Chinese society and the need for greater transparency and rule of law.
He was detained without explanation for three months last year during an overall crackdown on dissent. Following his release, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd. was ordered to pay $2.4 million in back taxes and fines. The company filed a lawsuit accusing the tax bureau of violating laws in handling witnesses, gathering evidence and company accounts.
On Friday, the Chaoyang District People’s Court rejected the lawsuit on the grounds that the reasons given by the design firm in seeking to have the tax penalty revoked did not hold water, according to a copy of the verdict seen by the Associated Press.
Ai has been refused permission to travel and is under constant surveillance. He still frequently criticizes the government on Twitter, which is blocked in China but accessible to tech-savvy citizens.