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Chinese Court Rejects Ai Weiwei’s $2.4 Million Tax Appeal

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Sunflower Seeds
"Sunflower Seeds" by Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei shown here at the Mary Boone Gallery in New York. Source: Mary Boone Gallery via Bloomberg

Sept. 27 (Bloomberg) -- A Beijing court rejected artist Ai Weiwei’s appeal over 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) in back taxes and fines levied after his release from almost three months of detention last year.

Ai paid 8.45 million yuan in taxes and will not pay the rest of the 15-million-yuan charge, he said in a phone interview today after the Chaoyang District Court made its ruling.

“We are not going to pay a penny for this because we think the whole trial is a politically motivated fabrication,” Ai said in a telephone interview. “We never during the whole struggle saw any evidence.”

Four calls to the Chaoyang District Court’s media office were not returned today. In July, the court dismissed a separate lawsuit Ai filed challenging the penalty.

Ai, an internationally known artist who has criticized the government, was detained in April last year and released without charges 81 days later. After he was freed, authorities handed him the bill for back taxes they said were owed by Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., the company that promotes his work and is controlled by his wife.

“People ask me, ‘What about if they arrest you?’” Ai said about his refusal to pay the full 15 million yuan. “I’m not afraid they can arrest me because a government like this or a system like this, they really can put anybody in this kind of condition and there’s no way to stop them.”

Ai’s works have included an installation at London’s Tate Modern gallery turbine hall featuring millions of ceramic sunflower seeds, and another for Munich’s Haus der Kunst that consisted of 9,000 backpacks to commemorate schoolchildren who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

He has blamed poor building standards for the deaths and accused the government of underreporting how many children died in the quake.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Nicholas Wadhams in Beijing at nwadhams@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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