Thousands of Chinese Contribute to Artist’s Tax Bill

Posted November 7th, 2011 at 5:45 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei says more than 10,000 people have donated money to help him pay a disputed tax bill, some of them making the money into paper airplanes and throwing them over his garden wall.

Ai said Monday the donations amount to more than $500,000, much of it in the form of bank transfers. The renowned artist and social critic portrayed the donations as evidence of broad public support in his confrontation with government officials.

Ai has earned large sums for his work and has invested in property in Germany. He said he is treating the donations as loans, and will repay them all with interest once he settles his tax dispute with the government.


In Hong Kong, human rights researcher Joshua Rosenzweig said the outpouring of money comes not so much from concern about the artist's wellbeing, but a sense that he has been treated unfairly.

The Communist party-affiliated newspaper Global Times said Monday that by raising money in this way, Ai may breaking Chinese law on fund-raising. Rosenzweig said he does not believe the law being cited by Global Times is applicable to what Ai is doing, but that does not mean it will not be used against him in some other way.

Global Times also argued that the number of people sending money to Ai is a very small percentage of China's total population. It said the majority of Chinese remain opposed to radical and confrontational political stances.

Ai, an outspoken critic of government policies, was arrested and held without charges for almost three months earlier this year at the height of a crackdown on human rights activists and lawyers.

He was subsequently charged with tax evasion and ordered to repay about $2.4 million in back taxes. Ai says the basis for the charges has not been explained, and he has not been able to review his own financial records, which were seized shortly after his arrest.