Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Absurd Revenge

The Chinese government was not satisfied with holding artist and activist Ai Weiwei -- illegally -- for nearly three months. The authorities have now slapped him with a 15 million RMB tax bill for back taxes and fines he apparently did not pay. He has 15 days to pay up.

However Ai feels the government's action is more a reprisal for his criticism of the the Communist Party.

"If it's a tax problem, I'll pay. But if it's not, I won't pay," he said.

He told the BBC he is only a designer in the design company Fake Cultural Development that his wife Lu Qing is the legal representative of. He added there were only three employees in the company.

Ai said his wife was given two notifications stating he had to pay more than 15 million RMB -- 6.8 million RMB in back taxes, 6.8 million RMB in penalties and around 3 million RMB for interest in delayed payments.

His lawyer Pu Zhiqiang thinks Ai will probably lose his freedom if he is not able to pay up.

"The penalty is targeting the [Fake] company... but if Ai and his company refuse to pay, the worst situation is that Ai will be arrested again by the authorities," Pu said. "The whole matter is ridiculous because so far there is no evidence to show that the [firm] is involved in tax evasion. And there is also a lack of an open and fair hearing on this case."

Pu added the authorities confiscated the original documents from Ai's company, including its account books and records of its operations so they cannot check if these allegations are correct.

In addition, officials did not specify any particular transactions or dates when the company apparently failed to file their tax reports, Pu said.

"Accounts for tax purposes should be investigated by the tax bureau, not the police. But it's the police that took me away to an unknown place for 81 days to investigate taxes, Ai said yesterday.

"I just want to say, if a country is determined to do something in the world, it's a must to protect every citizen's human rights well [and] building up a fair legal system [is] the only option," said Ai. "However, I am feeling so [unsafe] in my country."

Ai felt the authorities were targeting him because even though he insisted he was only the designer of the company, the authorities claimed he was the "actual controller" of the firm.

"They finally made up this new title... I know this matter is targeted at me. The authorities warned that they would give me a hard time when I was detained," Ai said.

"The officials [from the Beijing taxation bureau] said that they are not fining me, but the Fake company. But when I asked: 'Why was my name singled out by the government, at the Foreign Ministry briefings?' They still said to me: 'This has nothing to do with you.'"

On his Twitter page, Ai wrote: "They [taxation officials] told me seriously: 'If the country says you have evaded taxes, then you must have evaded them.'"

He noted discrepancies in the tax amounts the authorities were charging him. He said when he was first detained in April the amount was 60 million RMB, and then after his release it dropped down to 20 million RMB.

"Now the authorities say they will set me free if I pay the [15 million RMB], set according to my financial capability," he said.

After the entire fiasco of detaining him and the massive international outcry, the authorities will not let go of Ai. It wants revenge, albeit a financial one to punish him for how he has made them look silly.

But in fact they are the ones creating more grief for themselves

In his interview with the BBC, the interviewer asked Ai how he was going to pay the fine. He said perhaps they would have to sell the family home and of course most people will be sympathetic to Ai's cause even more.

To make up monetary amounts for Ai to pay is outrageous without any clear indication of exactly what his company has done wrong.

But this is China, where they will do whatever they need to do to prove to themselves they are still in power.

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