Artist and government critic Ai Weiwei's plan to raise money to pay the tax bill he disputes may yet lead to more legal problems, Chinese state-run media is warning.
Ai, who spent nearly three months in secret detention this spring and was recently slapped with a $2.4 million tax bill he says is fraudulent, has raised tens of thousands of dollars through an online campaign collecting donations. Ai has said the money will be repaid to lenders, and is perhaps his latest effort to involve as many people as possible in a campaign exposing the flaws in China's legal system and lack of free expression. While many have pointed out that Ai could auction some of his famous art to get the cash, he vehemently denies the taxes are owed.
On Monday, the hard line Global Times newspaper warned that Ai might be creating another legal muddle with his fundraising effort. As he's not a registered charity, raising the money creates legal issues, and he's likely to owe more taxes on the cash collected.
"Some experts have pointed out this could be an example of illegal fund-raising," the Global Times wrote. "Since he's borrowing from the public, it at least looks like illegal fund-raising. Meanwhile, as Western media reported, Ai purchased an upscale apartment in Berlin last year, and had planned to buy a 4,800-square-meter studio this year also in Berlin. Does he need to borrow money to pay off his tax evasion?"