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  • Jul 23, 2012

Beijing Court Rejects Ai Weiwei's Tax Evasion Appeal

Portrait of Ai Weiwei. Photo by Ted Alcorn. Courtesy Sundance Selects.

On July 20, Beijing’s Chaoyang District Court rejected an appeal by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Fake Design Cultural Development Company, pertaining to charges of tax evasion dating from 2011.

Ai was once again barred from attending court to receive the verdict, but says that he was not surprised by the court’s decision. The courts ignored all the evidence Fake Design presented, and rejected the case “totally without reason,” according to his lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang. On his Twitter, Ai announced, “we will continue to appeal, until that day when we cannot lose arrives.”

On November 1, 2011, the Beijing Tax Bureau fined Fake Design USD 2.4 million for tax evasion, a charge commonly brought against Chinese dissidents as a veiled excuse for detainment. Ai, a high-profile artist and outspoken critic of government corruption and shortcomings—particularly following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in which large numbers of students are believed to have died due to poor building standards, possibly due to corrupt local officials—was subsequently detained without reason for months before being released on parole and kept under house arrest.

Ai initially filed for administrative review, accompanied by $1.4 million in contributions from tens of thousands of supporters, including many who resorted to sending money folded into paper airplanes that they launched over the guarded walls of Ai’s home when authorities thwarted online contributions. However, the Beijing Tax Bureau upheld the penalty.

The artist then proceeded to appeal the charges in Beijing’s Chaoyang District Court after discovering that the Tax Bureau’s case was based solely on evidence collected by the Public Security Bureau. The media stirred on June 20 when Ai was barred from attending the court hearing by dozens of police, days before his parole expired.

Just last month, Ai Weiwei was proclaimed “free.” Yet, with the court’s recent decision, the extent of his freedom remains unclear. 

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