Skip to main content

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei loses tax evasion appeal

By Alexis Lai, CNN
September 27, 2012 -- Updated 1008 GMT (1808 HKT)
 Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (C) leaves court on Thursday after his final appeal against tax evasion charges was rejected.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (C) leaves court on Thursday after his final appeal against tax evasion charges was rejected.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei lost final appeal against tax evasion charges
  • Ai liable for back taxes and fines of RMB 15.52M (US$ 2.4M)
  • Court ruled without holding hearing, did not serve sufficient notice of ruling, said legal adviser
  • Ai says he is "just as vulnerable" as ordinary citizens

(CNN) -- Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei lost his second and final appeal against tax evasion charges in a Beijing intermediate court Thursday, leaving him liable for back taxes and fines totaling RMB 15.52 million (US$ 2.4 million).

The court directly ruled on the case without holding a hearing and failed to serve Ai sufficient notice of the ruling, according to Liu Xiaoyuan, Ai's legal adviser, who accompanied the artist to court on Thursday.

"We submitted new evidence to the court after the first appeal," Liu said. "According to regulations, there should have been another hearing, but there was not."

"According to relevant laws and regulations, the court should send a formal written notification three days before the verdict," Liu added. "But the court just gave us a call last night telling us there would be a hearing today," he said, adding that no other members of Ai's legal team were able to make it to the court on such short notice.

I'm more aware than ever now that I'm just as vulnerable as most other ordinary people in this country.
Ai Weiwei, Chinese dissident artist

"I'm more aware than ever now that I'm just as vulnerable as most other ordinary people in this country," Ai said, saying that he was "exhausted."

"We knew from the beginning that this was going to be a losing battle - to fight as individuals against the legal system," he said. "But to see so much arbitrary conduct in almost every step of their work is still very frustrating."

"We've been making a lot of effort getting our evidence, documenting our company's financial activities. And the court didn't really show any hard evidence today to convict us. They're openly violating the law by infringing on tax payers' basic rights and ignoring lawful requests time and time again."

Requests by CNN for comment from the court have not been returned.

Behind the scenes with Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei: 'This is a terrible time'
Ai Weiwei: My freedoms are restricted
Weiweicam.com cutoff

Ai Weiwei paints bleak picture of the future

Ai was barred from attending the court hearings held in June and July for his original lawsuit, with tens of police cars parked outside his home, studio, and the court. Liu said the artist was allowed to attend Thursday's hearing, likely because the case can no longer be appealed.

The 55-year-old provocateur has been battling the tax evasion charges brought by the Beijing tax bureau against his artistic company, Fake Cultural Development Ltd., for over a year.

The outspoken artist, blogger, filmmaker, and architect was on his way to Hong Kong in April 2011 when he was taken into custody at Beijing's international airport and detained for 81 days amid a government crackdown on political activists. Ai's studio in Beijing was raided, and his wife and several employees were taken into custody for questioning. The government campaign was attributed to fears of a potential Arab-Spring-style uprising, following online calls for a "Jasmine Revolution."

Seven weeks after Ai was taken into custody, state news agency Xinhua reported that Beijing police said his company evaded a "huge amount of taxes" and "intentionally destroyed accounting documents."

He was released on one year's probation the following June, with heavy restrictions imposed on his movements. Ai was forbidden to speak to the media or post on his Twitter account about his detainment. His phone was tapped, his e-mails were checked, and he had to report his appointments with other people to the police.

Ai Weiwei places himself under home surveillance

In November, the authorities demanded he pay the back taxes and fines within two weeks. Tens of thousands of supporters donated more than RMB 9 million (US$ 1 million) to help him, some even throwing RMB 100 notes folded into paper airplanes over the gate of his house. Ai used the donations to post a payment guarantee of the invoice in order to file a lawsuit to protest the charges.

Dayu Zhang, Tian Shao, and Vivian Kam contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
A smuggler in Dandong, a Chinese border town near North Korea, tells CNN about the underground trade with North Korean soldiers
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month when she found out an exact copy of her Hong Kong restaurant had opened in China.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0315 GMT (1115 HKT)
When I first came across a "virtual lover" service on e-commerce site Taobao, China's version of Amazon, I thought it was hype.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Each year Yi Jiefeng does what she can to stop China turning into a desert.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1454 GMT (2254 HKT)
As its relationship with the West worsen, Russia is pivoting east in an attempt to secure business with China.
October 8, 2014 -- Updated 0229 GMT (1029 HKT)
Aspiring Chinese comics performing in Shanghai's underground comedy scene hope to bring stand-up to the masses.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Liu Wen is one of the world's highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes' annual list of top earners.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist? C.Y. Leung was a relative unknown when he came to power in 2012.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
 A man uses his smartphone on July 16, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Only 53.5% of Japanese owned smartphones in March, according to a white paper released by the Ministry of Communications on July 15, 2014. The survey of a thousand participants each from Japan, the U.S., Britain, France, South Korea and Singapore, demonstrated that Japan had the fewest rate of the six; Singapore had the highest at 93.1%, followed by South Korea at 88.7%, UK at 80%, and France at 71.6%, and U.S. at 69.6% in the U.S. On the other hand, Japan had the highest percentage of regular mobile phone owners with 28.7%. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
App hopes to help those seeking a way out of China's overstrained public health system.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 0020 GMT (0820 HKT)
Yards from pro-democracy protests, stands the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
The massive street rallies that have swept Hong Kong present a major dilemma for China's leadership.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0707 GMT (1507 HKT)
Chinese wine drinkers need to develop a taste for the cheap stuff, not just premium red wines like Lafite.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0109 GMT (0909 HKT)
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, set off a media kerfuffle this month when he spoke about his next reincarnation.
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
China has no wine-making tradition but the country now uncorks more bottles of red than any other.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
ADVERTISEMENT