China Hands $2.3 Million Tax Bill to Artist Ai Weiwei

Posted November 1st, 2011 at 1:55 am (UTC-5)
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Dissident artist Ai Weiwei says Chinese authorities have ordered his company to pay more than $2.3 million in fines and back taxes, demanding payment before the middle of November.

Ai told reporters Tuesday that he will not pay unless he and his accountants determine that the company actually failed to pay taxes. He says that has not been possible until now because the government has not returned account books seized after his arrest in early April.

Ai, who is one of China's most famous artists, was held without charges for more than two months at a secret location before being released on bail in late June. He and family members say they believe he was arrested because of his outspoken criticism of government policies.

Ai said the tax bill was delivered to Beijing Fake Cultural Development Limited, the art and design firm that handles his affairs. The company is owned by Ai's wife, Lu Qing, but Ai said he believes the action was aimed at him.

Ai's arrest came in the midst of a nationwide crackdown on dissidents and human rights activists, many critics say was aimed at making sure that civil unrest sweeping through the Middle East did not spread to China.