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.

Weiwei “Lawyered Up” to Challenge Tax Bill

Ai Weiwei is ready to pony up the cash (8.5 million yuan) to the Chinese tax authorities, but they are not in agreement over the method of payment. According to Weiwei’s lawyer, the law dictates that they must guarantee the funds before they can dispute the assessment, but they have to be careful that the way they do it does not admit liability. They would prefer to provide the government with a bank deposit certificate and hold the funds in Weiwei’s account. The government, of course, wants the money wired directly to them. Full story here.

Weiwei is no idiot.  He has reason to be concerned with wiring the tax authorities the payment, which amounts to $1.3 million. In the United States if your hard-earned money somehow finds its way into IRS coffers (by way of bank levy or wage garnishment), it is significantly more difficult to get it back than if it was never collected in the first place. No comment, by the way, on whether or not the funds earmarked for Weiwei’s tax debt were hard-earned given the fact that it was gifted to him by many of his political allies. I’m sure if Weiwei were to pay them the amount in dispute, and then win his tax case, getting that money back would be a procedural nightmare for his attorney.

Prominent Chinese Artist Hit with Enormous Tax Bill

The Beijing Local Taxation Bureau says internationally known artist, Mr. Ai Weiwei, owes $2.36 million in back taxes and he has 10 days to pay it.

Weiwei will probably pay the bill in the end (he says he has the means to pay it), but he wants to be sure that the government is applying the law correctly.  Somehow I doubt there is much of an appeal process in China, and I would hate to see what might happen if he doesn’t make good after the 10 days have elapsed.

Weiwei is known for speaking out publicly against the Chinese government and the social problems of his homeland.  He was held by authorities for 81 days earlier this year without any formal charges, which leads Weiwei and others to suspect that the Chinese government wants to silence him one way or another.  Some may see the taxes as a side issue, and just a convenient way for the government to put him away.  We have certainly seen this scenario played out in the Unites States as well.  See full story here.