Outspoken artist Ai Weiwei said on Tuesday that Chinese authorities are now seeking $2.4 million in back taxes and fines from him, a sign that the government is not easing pressure on the dissident detained for nearly three months earlier this year.
Two officials from the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau delivered a notice to the artist on Tuesday saying he owed just over 15 million yuan ($2.36 million) in back taxes and fines, Ai said in a phone interview. He had been served a tax notice in June for a slightly smaller amount.
Ai said he would not pay until police return his Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd. design company’s account books and he discusses the matter with his former office manager and accountant, whom he says he has not been allowed to see.
“We cannot just unwittingly hand over a sum of money. This would be irresponsible toward the country,” he said.
Ai’s detention earlier this year prompted an international outcry among artists, politicians and human rights activists, and Western leaders called it a sign of China’s deteriorating human rights situation. His family said he is being punished for speaking out about the Communist leadership and social problems.