Bloomberg News

China Artist Ai Weiwei Pays $1.3 Million Bond in Tax Dispute

November 18, 2011

(Updates with government comment in ninth paragraph.)

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Ai Weiwei, the dissident Chinese artist who was detained for almost three months this year, paid an 8.45 million-yuan ($1.3 million) bond as he fights tax authorities who claim he owes double that amount.

Ai paid the money, all of which came from donations by his supporters, to tax authorities yesterday, he said. He will file an appeal within two months to contest the 15 million yuan in back taxes that authorities claim is owed by the design company controlled by his wife.

“We’ll go step by step, very clearly, we’ll show all the evidence to the public,” Ai said in a phone interview today. “We’re trying to protect the law and show the citizens that this isn’t an unlawful society.”

Ai’s April 3 detention at the Beijing airport was the most visible in a series of arrests, harassments and unexplained disappearances of activists in China after a surge of pro- democracy protests in the Middle East that spurred online calls for nationwide rallies in China.

Ai said the tax bill, which he received earlier this month, was “a joke” meant to cover for the fact that he was never charged with any crime after he was detained in April. He said he received more than 9 million yuan in donations after the fee was announced and promised to pay back “every penny” to the donors.

If his appeal fails, Ai said he planned to sue to overturn the tax fee, though he does not expect to win.

‘Won The Game’

“How can you win when the judges are not independent?” he said. “The only outcome is that you lose and they win. But to the public, we won the game already.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters at a briefing today in Beijing that Ai’s case is being handled by domestic legal authorities. “I’m not sure if he’s an internationally recognized artist or just an artist recognized in western countries,” Liu said.

Ai had an installation at London’s Tate Modern gallery turbine hall featuring millions of ceramic sunflower seeds. He collaborated on the design of the Olympic Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, working with the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.

An opinion piece in the state-controlled Global Times newspaper today said Ai is engaging in political confrontation and that without the West’s support, “Ai is literally nothing.”

‘Pessimistic Predictions’

“For 30 years, Ai Weiweis have emerged and fallen,” said the article, written by Shen Renping, a commentator with the newspaper’s Chinese edition. “But China has kept rising despite their pessimistic predictions. The real social trend is that they will be eliminated in the rising process of China.”

When Ai was released in June, the state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Beijing police as saying that Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., which he has worked for as a designer, evaded a “huge amount” of taxes and destroyed accounting documents.

Ai said the authorities had taken away the design company’s accounting books and that he hadn’t seen any evidence to back the claim that it owes back taxes.

--Nicholas Wadhams, with assistance from Michael Forsythe in Beijing. Editors: Peter Hirschberg, Patrick Harrington

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Nicholas Wadhams in Beijing at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at

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