Ai Weiwei Faces Obstructions, Threats as Payment Deadline Looms (Updated)
Loans and donations to help Ai Weiwei pay an allegedly outstanding tax bill have passed the amount initially required, but his situation remains far from resolved. Ai has already begun to repay his supporters after a fashion, however, posting a performance of ‘The Grass Mud Horse Song’, as requested, to YouTube:
(“It’s kind of silly,” Ai told The Global and Mail. “But being afraid will not help me.”)
By Sunday night, about 30,000 people had sent in a combined total of 8.7 million yuan ($1.37 million), he told China Real Time on Monday, adding that he planned to pay back as much of the money as possible.
“I feel that this is the beginning of civil society in China,” he said. “Young people have their own knowledge and don’t believe state media or the government’s accusations against me. This shows people care. They don’t only care, but they take action ….”
If he succeeds in paying the deposit, he should be able to continue with an administrative appeal to the tax bureau, and if that fails, he will then try to take it to court, he said.
“We cannot win the case, but we can win popular support and we can win morally,” he said. The tax bureau did not respond to a request for comment.
Ai and his associates have continued to seek a way forward which avoids implicitly accepting the charges against him. Fake Cultural Development Ltd’s lawyer Pu Zhiqiang explained to The Associated Press that they had tried to offer proven ability to pay in lieu of actual payment, in accordance with Chinese law.
Ai was planning to be the guarantor and offer a bank deposit certificate as collateral, Pu said.
But the tax bureau told Fake Cultural’s tax attorney Monday that it wanted the money paid into one of its accounts instead, Pu said.
The lawyer said the tax bureau’s request was illegal because Chinese law stipulates that a person trying to challenge a tax bill can use a deposit certificate as collateral for a guarantee.
Pu said the company wants to fight the tax evasion allegation, and to do that it cannot take any actions that might be interpreted as an acceptance of the tax evasion accusation.
“I think whether or not putting money into a tax bureau bank account is a sign of acceptance, we are not prepared to do that,” Pu said, adding that he was also concerned getting the guarantee money returned would be difficult should Ai win the case.
The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore reported on Google+ that, according to Ai Weiwei, the tax bureau had professed concern about the appropriate procedures for accepting him as guarantor, which they suggested was legal but unprecedented. But in an apparent attempt to force a quick resolution and implicit confession, the bureau warned on Tuesday that the case would be turned over to police if payment was not made by the Wednesday deadline.
“They also clearly told us that if we exceeded this time period, they would transfer the case to the public security. There would be a different kind of outcome from that,” Ai said in a phone interview ….
“It’s very simple,” Ai said. “Those in power have the right to do anything and their power faces no restrictions.”
See also Newsweek’s current cover story, an interview with Ai Weiwei, via CDT.
Update: Ai Weiwei has paid the bond, according to Reuters:
Ai, 54, paid the bond, all of it raised by his supporters, into a tax bureau bank account on Tuesday afternoon to cover what the government says he owes in back taxes and late payments. It does not include a fine of about 6.6 million yuan.
But Ai said he remains pessimistic about successfully contesting the charge of tax evasion, and the combined bill of 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) ….
Ai said he will not pay the remaining 6.6 million in fines now because that would be a tacit admission of guilt before the appeal ends, which could take months ….
Ai said his mother, Gao Ying, does not know that he has paid the bond and will be furious if she hears it, adding that “she will think, ‘what an insult’.”