Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's wife said Thursday that they will contest a $2.4 million tax bill that they see as government harassment and use money collected from supporters to proceed with an appeal.
The Beijing tax bureau is demanding that the dissident artist pay 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) in back taxes and fines. Ai denies tax evasion. As of Wednesday, Ai had received 6,725,139 yuan from thousands of people wanting to help pay the bill that they see as unfair, he wrote online Thursday.
Ai, an internationally acclaimed conceptual artist, was detained for nearly three months earlier this year during an overall crackdown on dissent. The detention and subsequent claims of tax evasion have been interpreted by activists as a way to punish him for his often-outspoken criticism of the authoritarian government.
His wife Lu Qing, who is the legal representative of Ai's Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd. design company, said the couple decided Thursday to use the money from supporters as a guarantee _ a step required by law for them to proceed with an appeal.
"Many people have stepped forward and donated money voluntarily. We have decided to use that money as a guarantee, which does not mean that we are paying the tax bill or the fine, but we are putting down this money as a guarantee in order to move forward with the appeal and obtain an administrative reversal" of the charges, she said.
They need to make a payment of more than 8 million yuan _ over half the total demanded by authorities _ by Tuesday to obtain an administrative review of the case, Ai told the AP on Wednesday.
Du Yanlin, the company's tax attorney, said authorities have not proven that Ai is the owner of the company or that he had evaded taxes.
Lu said supporters all over China have donated money through money transfers and in person at Ai's studio.
Ai has said that he will not treat the money from supporters as donations, but as loans that he would repay.