Chinese court upholds $2.4 million fine against Ai Weiwei

A Chinese court ruled that artist and dissident Ai Weiwei will have to pay a $2.4 million tax evasion fine. Many view the fine as a way of silencing Ai's criticisms of the government. 

David Gray/Reuters
Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei answers a question during an interview at his studio in Beijing September 27. On Thursday Ai lost a second appeal against a huge tax evasion fine, a case that has badly tarnished China's human rights reputation.

A Chinese court upheld a $2.4 million tax evasion fine against China's most famous dissident Ai Weiwei on Thursday, in a case that has badly tarnished the country's already poor human rights reputation.

"It's an extremely shameless court," Ai, whose 81-day detention last year sparked an international outcry, told reporters.

"It didn't respect the facts or give us a chance to defend ourselves; it has no regard for taxpayers' rights," he said, adding he did not know whether now he had to pay to entire fine though he suspected he did.

Ai, 55, had asked the Chaoyang District Court to overturn the city tax office's rejection of his appeal against the 15 million yuan ($2.38 million) tax evasion penalty imposed on the company he works for, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, which produces his art and designs.

"From the Fake tax case (we) can see that there's no fair justice in China," Ai added.

The case is widely seen by activists as an attempt to muzzle the outspoken artist, who has repeatedly criticised the Chinese government for flouting the rule of law and the rights of citizens.

Courts, controlled by the ruling Communist Party, rarely accept lawsuits filed by dissidents and appeals against official decisions are routinely dismissed.

The case comes on the heels of a score of other high-profile cases, including the fleeing to the U.S. embassy of blind, self-taught legal activist Chen Guangcheng.

Government efforts to silence Ai have frequently backfired, as demonstrated by an outpouring of public sympathy - and cash - in response to the tax penalty.

About 30,000 people donated money to help Ai cover an 8.45 million yuan bond required to contest the tax charges. Many of Ai's supporters folded money into paper planes that were flown over the walls of his home.

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