Tax Case Against China's Ai Weiwei To Get Review

Published January 6, 2012 4:36AM (EST)

BEIJING (AP) — Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said Friday that Beijing tax authorities have agreed to review their ruling that he pay a multimillion dollar fine for alleged tax evasion.

The internationally acclaimed conceptual artist said tax officials informed him of the decision Wednesday by telephone and said the review would be completed within two months. Ai said he was hopeful that the case would be handled earnestly and transparently.

"How they handle this relates to issues of China's rule of law and the safety of its people," Ai said. "It has very broad implications. If they can't resolve this issue very fairly and carefully, it will be bring harm to this society's justice system."

Ai was detained for three months last year during an overall crackdown on dissent. Following his release, authorities demanded his design company pay 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) in back taxes and fines, a penalty interpreted by activists as punishment for his criticism of the authoritarian government.

The tax bill prompted tens of thousands of Ai's supporters to send small donations that ended up totaling nearly 8.7 million yuan ($1.4 million), which was used to pay a guarantee to the tax bureau. Some donations were folded into paper airplanes or wrapped around fruit and thrown over his gate.

He was also given a symbolic 100 euro ($137) donation from the German government's human rights commissioner.

Ai has said that he will not treat the money from supporters as donations, but as loans that he would repay.

Meanwhile, an installation of Ai's "Sunflower Seeds" that debuted at the Tate Modern in London last year was to open Saturday in New York at the Mary Boone Gallery.

The gallery said the show, featuring millions of hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds, would be on display until next month.

Ai said he was unable to attend the opening because the terms of his bail prohibit him from leaving Beijing until June 22.

Ai was detained April 3 and released June 22. Chinese authorities have said that although Ai was released, he is technically still under investigation for at least a year and could be brought in for further questioning at any time.

By Salon Staff

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