Artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) said that he received a notice* from the Beijing Municipal Local Taxation Bureau (北京市地方税务局) dated November 1, 2011, requiring him to pay 15.22 million yuan back taxes ($2.36 million) within 15 days. The notice also stated that Ai would accrue an additional 200,000 yuan ($31,640) per day fine if he fails to make the payment on time.
Human Rights in China spoke with Gao Ying (高瑛), Ai’s mother and the widow of Ai Qing (艾青), one of the most celebrated poets in modern China. The following is her message.
* Ai has shared the full text of the Decision on Handling Taxation Affairs (税务处理决定书) and the Decision on Administrative Penalty for Taxation Affairs (税务行政处罚决定书) on his Google+ page.
A Message from Gao Ying (高瑛)
Translation by Human Rights in China
November 5, 2011
I want my son to be free. I don't want him to be taken away by the authorities again, or my daughter-in-law, Lu Qing (路青), or Liu Zhenggang (刘正刚) [an associate of Ai’s], or the accountant, who have all been implicated. Since Ai Weiwei was released after 81 days of detention, he has been placed under residential surveillance. He cannot leave the country or Beijing; if he wants to visit me, he has to report to the authorities first. On my birthday, my son went out to celebrate, and a State Security officer was tailing him the entire time.
The authorities came up with the so-called economic [crimes] in order to explain what they did. When they took Ai Weiwei into custody, they did not find any kind of subversive acts on Ai Weiwei’s part, for instance, anything that was connected to the Jasmine Revolution. So they had no choice but to use the “economic [crimes]” explanation when he was released four months later. Now they're saying it is "tax evasion."…
When Ai Weiwei was being held, the police leaked it to Xinhua that Ai Weiwei's “economic problems” were "tax evasion." At first they said it was 20 million yuan, then 25 million yuan, and now it's 15,220,000; the number keeps changing. … Ai Weiwei stated openly after his release that [the authorities’ claim that] he had had "confessed" was absurd. He said he had never been formally arrested or charged, and "I don't even know what crime I committed, so how could I have confessed?"
They demand that the 15,220,000 has to be paid in 15 days. An additional 200,000 yuan will be added for every day late. And if he can't pay it, then he'll be taken in. This amount is astronomical for an artist. At the same time, the deadline for payment is so tight that not even robbing banks could help. … Well, since Ai Weiwei is not able to pay, as his mother, I have to step in to help. My monthly retirement payment isn't much, just a few thousand yuan; this bit of money can’t save my daughter-in-law and their friends who are implicated.
The only thing that I can use is my home; I am willing to first mortgage it, then auction it. I want to resolve this debt. …
After Ai Qing (艾青) passed away, Hu Jintao, who was then already a member of the Politburo [of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China], came to see me as a representative of the central leadership, to convey kindness on behalf of the leaders. …
After Ai Weiwei was disappeared in April, the family heard nothing of him. Looking at the picture I had taken with Hu Jintao that was hanging in my house made me uncomfortable. … So, I took down that photo and replaced it with a photo of our whole family. Ai Weiwei was inexplicably detained at the airport, and we had no idea where he was taken to. Is it fair to casually turn a person into an enemy, and an object of hatred? I have these words for the authorities: creepy, crooked, evil.
What is the proof of Ai Weiwei's “crimes”? It is that he said a few words of fairness about a big incident in the country [the Sichuan earthquake]. He spoke up in order defend the rights of common people…. The result: misfortune on our family. When the schools collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake due to shoddy construction, Ai Weiwei spoke out to get justice for the children who died. None of the children who died were our own.
Ai Weiwei was silent for a few months. If he does not speak, and if I, as his mother, do not support him, it’s possible that he will lose his freedom again. How terrifying! During the time that he lost his freedom, he was held in a small cell with the light on 24 hours a day. He rose at 6:30 a.m. every day; the police monitoring him worked in three-hour shifts, and they watched him when he ate and when he used the toilet. During the 81 days that Ai Weiwei was held, I was a wreck and cried my eyes dry. I don’t hear so well now, and my eyesight is poor. I am already 80 years old. As long as I live, I want to have my son by my side. I don’t want to fail as a mother. I will always support my son.
The authorities are afraid that we'll get in touch with the media and don't want us to speak with them. I find this unfair. This is the Internet age. If something happens, everyone should discuss it. If something is unreasonable, then let everyone discuss it so that an adequate and reasonable solution can be found.
I am a Chinese person. I want to live with dignity. If a country is not well run, the Chinese people are dishonored. I hope that in our country there is freedom, justice, rule of law, guarantee of personal safety, and people can live with a sense of security. As a mother, these are what I ask for, but I’m afraid I will not get them.