China's most famous activist artist, Ai Weiwei, says he feels like he has been robbed by the state, after depositing more than one million dollars into a government account. The deposit now allows him to contest a huge tax bill he was served with, shortly after spending more than two months in detention.
Ai Weiwei showed reporters his receipt for more than $1 million that he paid to the Beijing Tax Bureau. He was required to pay that amount, by Wednesday as a guarantee before he could appeal a more than $2 million for back taxes that the government served him with two weeks ago.
The artist says the officials accepted the tax guarantee, which means he can now proceed with his appeal for an administrative review.
Ai had prepared to pay the deposit earlier this week, but officials initially refused to accept it because the two sides could not agree on how the money would be transmitted.
Earlier this year, Ai disappeared into detention for more than two months. He referred to that experience as he talked to reporters outside his studio when he prepared to go to a meeting with tax officials.
“It's more or less like I was a hostage half a year ago. Now, I pay the ransom and I feel I was robbed, but, you know, officially,” Ai said.
Lawyer Xia Ling says they have completed the first step of paying the required deposit amount to proceed with requesting an administrative review of the case.
Xia says the company named on the tax bill, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Limited, has two months to prepare and present its paperwork. He says there also are other legal means, if that appeal request is rejected.
The tax bill names Ai as what it calls the company's “controlling person,” but he is not officially listed as the company's head.
Ai is an internationally known artist who is best known for his work helping to design Beijing's 2008 Olympic stadium, the Birds Nest. He became an outspoken critic of the government following a major earthquake that year, when thousands of children died in shoddily-constructed school buildings.
The government says the case is against the artist is tax evasion, but he says he has been told that he is being persecuted for his outspoken views on free speech.
When word spread earlier this month of Ai's huge tax bill, supporters sent money from around the country, raising enough for the amount needed to lodge an appeal. The artist says he is treating the contributions as loans, which he will repay.