Beijing tax authorities are seeking nearly $2m (£1.2m) in back taxes and fines from Ai Weiwei, the outspoken Chinese artist who was released last week after spending nearly three months in detention.
Ai was released on bail last Wednesday and Chinese authorities said he confessed to tax evasion and had pledged to repay the money owed. His family has denied he evaded any taxes and activists denounced the accusation as a pretext for detaining Ai, who spoke out against the authoritarian government's repression of civil liberties.
The Beijing Local Taxation Bureau informed Ai that he owed around 5m yuan (£480,000) in unpaid taxes and would be fined about 7m yuan – totalling just over 12m yuan, a Beijing human-rights lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, said yesterday. Mr Liu does not legally represent Ai, but has been a friend and supporter of the artist for years.
Chinese authorities sometimes try to silence critics by accusing them of tax violations or other kinds of non-political crimes.
Ai, who has shown his work in London, New York and Berlin, has earned huge sums selling his art at auctions and through galleries.
Last year, he filled the Turbine Hall of London's Tate Modern art gallery with millions of handmade porcelain sunflower seeds. A 100kg pile of the seeds sold for more than £343,000 at a Sotheby's auction in February.
Ai has declined to comment since his release due to bail conditions.