Thousands of Chinese Contribute to Artist’s Tax Bill

Posted November 7th, 2011 at 2:10 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.

However the Communist party-affiliated newspaper Global Times said Monday that Ai may be guilty of illegal fund-raising.

It also noted out 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 been unable to review his own financial records, which were seized shortly after his arrest.