Chinese dissident artist says he will pursue the truth until he gets a ‘satisfactory answer.’
Fighting tax evasion charges, outspoken Chinese artist and human rights activist Ai Weiwei said Tuesday he did not fear re-arrest, suggesting that the authorities were using the tax issue as a security tool to muzzle criticism.
“I have no fear of arrest as it is not a big deal,” he said in an interview with Radio Free Asia’s Mandarin service, vowing to continue his fight for justice.
“That just means there is one more criminal. The [Chinese] republic has never had a short supply of criminals, they can arrest me without any reasons,” the usually soft-spoken artist said in one of the most defiant interviews with the international media since his release from detention earlier this year.
Ai was held by the authorities for 81 days in secret detention earlier this year, sparking an international outcry. The government did not give any reasons when they detained him but cited “economic crimes” when they freed him in June.
“When I was arrested the last time, what was the reason? And when they released me they were supposed to give a reason [to satisfy their higher-ups]. Don’t worry—they always create a reason.”
“When I have become fearless of nothing, what can they do? Haven’t they ever heard the saying, ‘If the people have no fear of death, how can you threaten them with it?’” Ai said in a resolute tone.
Ai was slapped with a mammoth tax bill last week, receiving a Nov. 1 notice from the Beijing Municipal Local Taxation Bureau requiring him to pay 15.22 million yuan (U.S. $2.36 million) in back taxes within 15 days.
The notice also stated that Ai would accrue an additional 200,000 yuan (U.S. $31,640) per day fine if he failed to make the payment on time.
China’s netizens immediately rallied financial support for Ai by sending money through the bank accounts he publicized on the Internet. As a result he has received over 6 million yuan (U.S. $944,737) in donations by Tuesday.
“I really don’t want to use netizens’ money to pay the tax bills. Why do I have to use their money to pay the tax in the first place?” Ai asked in the interview on Tuesday.
“First of all, we have to know if there is a need for me to pay the tax.”
“However, I think the question can never be answered because the legal establishments, foreign services and [China’s state] Xinhua News Agency are all serving the interest of police,” Ai said.
“When tax service is just a part of police operations, you cannot argue with them,” he said, suggesting that the authorities were using tax as a weapon to curb human rights.
“Nonetheless, I will pursue the truth until a satisfactory answer is given,” Ai added.
On Monday, The Global Times, a tabloid owned by the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, attacked Ai in an editorial titled “Ai Weiwei’s Drama of Borrowing Money to Pay Tax.” It said Ai’s online appeals for public donations might be tantamount to illegal fundraising.
“The charges are absurd,” said Du Yanlin, the accountant for Ai Weiwei’s Beijing-based company, Fake Cultural Development Ltd.
“Illegal fundraising has to fit the following two definitions: with the purpose of profit and lavish spending and with the enticement of high investment returns.”
“Ai’s action fits neither of the terms. His appeal is for the purpose of defending human rights and is completely irrelevant of illegal fundraising,” Du told RFA.
Ai’s office has already announced in a cyber post that all donations would be paid back without interest.
Reported by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Ping Chen.
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