The latest from the Ai Weiwei tax bill fiasco comes from AFP writer Pascale Trouillaud, who collected reactions to Ai scoring yet another victory over the government:
Zhang Yaojie, a researcher at the China Academy of Art who is close to the dissident movement, said the government was “losing face” over the issue and “must regret its decision” to fine Ai.
Authorities have apparently censored the Internet for information on the issue and a search for the term “Ai Weiwei” in China is blocked. But the Communist regime now finds itself in an awkward situation, analysts say.
“They (authorities) were hoping to reduce him to silence but on the contrary, they showed that there is support for Ai Weiwei,” said Jean-Philippe Beja, a sinologist at the Paris-based research centre CERI SciencesPo.
“Ai Weiwei… has managed to transform this fine into an expression of defiance and into support for his cause.”
Renaud de Spens, a Beijing-based Internet expert, said the outcome was a “huge kick in the teeth” for the government. “The regime tried to scare him, but it was not a good strategy,” he told AFP.
One netizen named Shuxuediyijian joked online that the government had “failed”, adding, “it didn’t anticipate that Ai would receive donations and tell the whole world about it. How embarrassing!”
Even the state-run Global Times recently admitted “some donors say they see the donation as an act of voting” in a country with no real elections.
The wave of donations also shows that “there is a part of the population that supports critical stances and is not scared,” Beja said, pointing to many donors who left their names with the money.
Ai — who has been banned from leaving Beijing since his release — denies the government’s charge that he evaded taxes for years, insisting it is a politically motivated attempt to silence his vocal rights activism.
He is known for tallying the number of children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake — a hugely sensitive topic as many died in schools that were shoddily built and collapsed onto them, which many blamed on corruption.
Losing face really is the right way to put it. The massive, powerful government focusing so much strength and harassment on minor irritant/artist Ai Weiwei and yet continually coming out the loser is pretty much the definition of losing face.