China's Ai Weiwei will fight tax charges "to the death"

Wed Nov 2, 2011 4:24pm EDT
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By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei vowed Wednesday to fight tax evasion charges "to the death," a day after the government ordered a company linked to him to pay 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) in back taxes and fines.

The 54-year-old artist, who has been a thorn in the government's side for his satirical art and criticism of contemporary China, was detained without charge for 81 days this year in a move that drew criticism from Western governments.

He was released in late June on condition that he not talk to foreign media, since when he has mainly kept to himself and has been reluctant to accept interviews.

But in a two-hour interview with Reuters, Ai, who had a hand in designing the Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, showed flashes of his previously fiery self.

"Will a person like Ai Weiwei surrender?" In my dictionary, there's no such word 'surrender'," the bearded artist said at his home and studio in northeastern Beijing where a team of lawyers and tax experts and his wife, Lu Qing, were gathered.

"Ordinary people will not be able to endure this. But because they've targeted me, I'm still willing to accompany them on this road. Because I'm not afraid of them. I think it's improper that a country is engaging in shameless activities."

Ai said authorities had not shown him evidence of the alleged tax evasion and had told the manager and accountant of Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., which has helped produce Ai's internationally renowned art and designs, not to meet him.

According to Ai, the Public Security Bureau has labeled him the "controlling person" of the company, although his wife is the legal representative. Ai said that if he didn't pay the penalty, his wife could go to jail.   Continued...

<p>Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei speaks to members of the media in the doorway of his studio after he was released on bail in Beijing June 23, 2011. REUTERS/David Gray</p>