Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ai Weiwei: 'Shame on Me'

November 24, 2011

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei speaks about the changes in his life since the end of his detention in June and shows himself moved and surprised by a new culture of protest in his country.

SPIEGEL: Last week you made a €970,000 ($1.3 million) payment to the bank account of the Chinese tax authorities. You consider it to be a kind of guarantee, a deposit. Do they consider it to be an admission of guilt?

Ai: I cannot speak for them. But I can tell you a lot about the pressure from the tax bureau and the police department on me. They really, really wanted us to pay. They tried to push us hard. They said: Pay something, you should understand. But they did not tell me what I should understand.

SPIEGEL: So the fact that you finally paid is a kind of victory for them?

Ai: Well, it was desirable for them but we had no choice. They said: If you don't pay, we will bring your case to the public security office, and then you will be facing criminal charges. By law you have to pay first, and then you can make an appeal.

SPIEGEL: Have you ever seen any proof of your alleged tax evasion?

Ai: No, and it is ridiculous. The only reason why they put me in jail is my involvement in politics, my criticism of the authorities. Later the excuse for my detention became my "tax problem." But internally they never told me anything about it. I don't want to underestimate their intelligence, but up to this day I think what they did is very stupid. In fact, they even helped me in an ironic sense. They gave me a chance to explain what is happening with this system. They provided such a platform for me.