Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Accused of Tax Evasion–What’s Behind It?

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on November 7, 2010. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

From the Associated Press

Famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who disappeared earlier this month and is believed to be in police custody, is being investigated for allegedly evading his taxes and destroying evidence, a Hong Kong newspaper reported Thursday.

The Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying Ai, an outspoken government critic, is suspected of evading large amounts of tax, though no exact figure was given, and destroying papers that might have been used as evidence against him.

It said he was also being investigated for bigamy because he has a young son with a woman other than his wife and is suspected of spreading pornography online.

Original Article in Wen Wei Po (Chinese)

(2011-04-14) 艾未未受調查先抗拒後配合

Analysis: What Does This Mean for Other Chinese Dissidents?

Ai Weiwei is a world-renowned artist with connections in China and with Western governments. In the past, despite his criticism of the Chinese Communist Party, he had never been arrested and charged like this (although Shanghai authorities demolished his studio last November). So are the charges against Ai political or grounded in law? And if the former, what does this mean for other dissidents in China?

Evan Osnos for the New Yorker writes this in Why Ai Weiwei Matters

The importance of Ai’s case is not strictly his work and ideas; it is the way in which his experience, and now his disappearance, illuminate the behavior of the Chinese state.

Professor Jerome A. Cohen of NYU’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute discusses this in more detail:

Ai’s April 3 detention has now given him a greater, albeit unwanted, opportunity to demonstrate the injustice of Chinese criminal justice. His case illustrates the abject helplessness of the individual before the unchecked power of the police, despite legislative and judicial measures attempting to curb that power. Because of the notoriety of Ai’s detention, police are more likely to comply with the letter of the law in this case than in less visible cases, where they have shown a disturbing tendency to act outside the law. For that reason, Ai’s case is especially educational, since it may help us understand what Foreign Ministry spokesmen mean when they say that China “is a country ruled by law” but that perceived “troublemakers” cannot “use the law as a shield” and “no law can protect them”.

Associate Professor at Notre Dame Lionel M. Jensen writes for George Mason University’s History News Network:

On Thursday morning the character assassination phase became more ominous, when Xinhua News Agency reported that Ai was being “investigated for suspected economic crimes in accord with the law... Yet, the ambiguous language of the official report conveyed that the state was having difficulty obtaining actual evidence to make such a “case.”

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Filed under China, Human Rights

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