Ai Weiwei’s tax bill donations come flying in

Thousands of people have donated money to pay a massive tax bill served on Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

To date, donations totalling more than 5m yuan (US $790,000, £490,000) to pay off the $2.4m in taxes and fines the authorities say he owes.

People have handed over money using bank transfers and postal orders – and some have even thrown cash into his compound.

The outspoken artist said he intended to pay the money back later.

The donations began shortly after the internationally renowned artist announced that he had received the tax demand.

According to a posting on the social networking site Twitter by Liu Yanping, a volunteer at the artist’s studio, almost 20,000 people have so far handed over money.

Workers have even found cash folded into paper planes that have been flown over the wall of the compound where Ai Weiwei lives and works.

“These donations are not just about money, they’re an expression of people’s feelings about what’s happened,” said the artist, who had asked for people to loan him money.

“I can only say that I’m very grateful and very touched by their actions.”

The tax bill relates to late payments and fines connected to Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, a firm that produces the artist’s work.

Although Mr Ai said he was only a “designer” at the company, the authorities maintain that he is the “actual controller”.

Mr Ai was detained at Beijing Airport as he tried to leave the country and held for nearly three months.

He was released without charge in June, but accused of tax evasion. The current bill is how much the authorities say he owes.

But speaking to reporters, Mr Ai said this demand was just a cover. He said he was being persecuted for his political beliefs.

Over the last few years Mr Ai, who helped design Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium, has been one of the government’s most outspoken critics.

“During the 81 days of my arrest, inside this secret place, they accused me of subversion of state power,” he said last week.

But he said he was told he had to be charged with tax evasion. The police told him: “We want people to think you are a bad guy.”

Mr Ai has until the end of the week to pay up. He has not yet decided what to do.

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