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Chinese Tax Authorities Seeking $2 Million From Ai Weiwei, specific allegations not yet detailed

From the New York Times:

June 28, 2011 BEIJING — Ai Weiwei, the artist and government critic who was released last week from nearly three months in police custody, is facing almost $2 million in fines and unpaid taxes, his mother and an associate said Tuesday.

Officials say Mr. Ai, 54, earned his freedom in part by confessing a failure to pay a “huge amount” of taxes and for willfully destroying financial documents, according to the state media. Western diplomats and human rights advocates say his prosecution, which comes amid tightening restrictions on dissidents, is aimed at reining in his famously vitriolic attacks on the governing Communist Party.

In a telephone interview, Gao Ying, Mr. Ai’s mother, said two tax bureau officials came to the door of his studio on Monday with documents claiming that his company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., owed nearly 5 million renminbi, or about $770,000, in back taxes and an additional 7.3 million renminbi, or about $1.1 million, in penalties. She said Mr. Ai refused to sign the documents, insisting that his accountant, who is being held incommunicado along with two other staff members, first be released to parry the allegations.

His family insists that Mr. Ai is neither the chief executive nor the legal representative of the company, which is registered in his wife’s name. “If it is Weiwei’s responsibility, he will gladly take it, but he has no reason to pay for something he is not responsible for,” Ms. Gao said. “As his mother I think the authorities should get the facts straight first.”

Reached on his cell phone Tuesday night, Mr. Ai said his studio did not agree with the figures contained in the documents but he declined to elaborate. Since he returned home last Wednesday, Mr. Ai has declined to speak about the case or his prolonged disappearance, which legal experts have described as a violation of Chinese law.

Beyond vague statements about Mr. Ai’s financial misdeeds conveyed through the state media, legal authorities have yet to detail the specific allegations against him, family members say. Under the terms of his release, Mr. Ai cannot leave Beijing without permission for one year and he can be detained again for failing to cooperate with the investigation.

In contrast to his uncharacteristic silence, some of his friends have been agitating on his behalf. On Tuesday, Liu Xiaoyuan, a well-known rights defender, began a campaign on Twitter to help Mr. Ai raise the money he reportedly owes to the Beijing tax bureau. “Ai Weiwei has almost 100,000 followers on Twitter. If each of them donated a one-hundred thousandth of the total amount, we could help him to pay off the fine,” he said in a telephone interview. “This is like a micro-donation. I’m just showing some micro-support.”