Ai Weiwei tax bill: artist says he has 'paid the ransom'

16 November 2011

The outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has said he feels as though he has paid a ransom, after depositing 8.45m yuan (£845,000) into a government account while he contests a huge tax bill after being held in police detention.

Tax authorities say Ai's design firm, Beijing Fake Cultural Development, owes £1.5m in back taxes and fines. Ai disputes this and says he does not own the company involved. The deposit, paid on Tuesday, was required for him and the company to challenge the bill, which was levied on his company months after he was released from police detention. "It's more or less like I was a hostage half a year ago, now I paid the ransom and I feel I have been robbed," Ai told reporters as he was leaving his studio for the Beijing local taxation bureau.

They now have 60 days to challenge the tax bill, which Ai's supporters have called an attempt to silence a high-profile government critic.

"We must take the legal way, as a citizen, a person's innocence is linked to a nation's innocence. We are not doing this for ourselves, the legal system needs to be fair and just, it needs to be transparent and fair. Only in this way will there be hope for this country," Ai said.

"I hope we can prove my innocence," and that of the company, he said.

On his visit to the tax bureau Ai wore a T-shirt with a picture of himself in a missing person poster with the word "Found" stamped on the bottom corner – a reference to his detention earlier this year and subsequent release in June.

The state-run Global Times newspaper ran a commentary on Wednesday slamming foreign media reports on Ai, saying dissidents such as him enjoy little domestic support and have been rendered obsolete by the tide of China's rise.

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