The Multi-Talented Chinese Tax Authority

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We think the IRS has been tasked with more than it can handle now that it will have to enforce the new health care law, but it takes just one look at the Chinese taxing authority to rethink how bad it really is here.

Chinese tax collectors take multitasking to a whole new level.  The case of Chinese artist/political activist Ai Weiwei shows how their duties go far beyond collection of revenue.  In between their bean counting sessions, they somehow found time to detain and interrogate Ai in a secret location for 81 days last year.  All in a day’s work for the Chinese tax authority.

The Chinese Government insists that it is only interested in Ai paying his tax debt, but it is clear that what they really want from Ai is silence.  This story is back in the news now because Ai recently lost his appeal.  A Chinese appellate court rejected his argument that the tax authority had violated its own procedures by temporarily robbing him of his freedom last year.  And still Ai refuses to hold his peace when it comes to important Chinese social & political issues.  See full story here.

Ai Weiwei’s Story Told in New Documentary Film

Filmmaker, Alison Klayman, has documented the life and work of Ai Weiwei in a film that premiered at Sundance this past weekend. Ai is known on this blog for his tax problems (“problems” that were likely invented by the Chinese government as a way to appear to incarcerate him for legitimate reasons), but is recognized around the world as one of China’s most outspoken dissidents.

“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” tells the story of Ai through exclusive interviews of the artist himself and those that are close to him. See a high quality preview of the film here: ai-weiwei-evolution-of-a-dissident.html.

“Individual freedom . . . independent thinking and expression . . . those are the core values of my activities.

~ Ai Weiwei

Ai often uses his art to make strong political statements. This is a man who knows he could be snatched up at any moment by Chinese authorities for his provocative art and opinions. He knows that his life (or death) is in the hands of the government he criticizes. His courage and ambition are inspiring.

Ai Weiwei’s Tax Case up for Reconsideration

Our political activist / artist friend, Ai Weiwei, is in the news again today fighting for his own personal tax relief and the broader agenda of pursuing justice for his fellow countrymen.

The Beijing Local Taxation Bureau has agreed to hear his appeal of a $2.4 million tax bill and fine for alleged tax evasion. They informed him the process would take no more than two months.

The IRS should take note of this.  Chinese tax authorities gave themselves a deadline, a very reasonable deadline!  Ok, but let’s not get overly excited about this.  Will they follow through on this self-imposed deadline?  And even if they do act quickly, is a speedy & oppressive ruling any better than the slow churning of the IRS?  In other words, is this case being reviewed just to appease Ai and other government opposition?

Everyone will be watching closely for any missteps in the process.  Ai for himself definitely sees his appeal as something grand and symbolic:

How they handle this relates to issues of China’s rule of law and the safety of its people. It has very broad implications. If they can’t resolve this issue very fairly and carefully, it will bring harm to this society’s justice system.