The Chinese dissident artist has complied with the government and has made good a $1.3m (£820,000) bond in order to begin an appeal against a $2.5m tax bill.
He said in a report to the BBC, “The tax bureau insisted I put the money into its bank account or face police prosecution”. Mr Ai’s representatives had been in talks with tax officials about how to contest the demand. He was in a position to present proof that he had the bond, but the authorities refused. They wanted the money handed over by today.”This is the only way we could lodge an appeal. If we missed this deadline they said they could turn the case over to the police,” he said. Much of the cash had been donated by supporters who have given nearly 9m yuan ($1.4m, £890,000). The artist has promised to pay them back.
The donation campaign — which has involved a variety of unorthodox methods, from smuggling money in paper airplanes, and even wrapping bills around fruit thrown over the fence into his property – has been condemned as illegal by a state-run newspaper, Global Times. And indeed, the support being shown for Ai Weiwei on this occasion is unusual due to fears of the government retribution that be prompted by supporting high-profile dissidents.
Ai Weiwei sees this development as a very good sign for the future, explaining that ‘It shows that in the Internet age, society will have its own judgment and its own values’, and applauds the ‘group of people who want to express their views [and] are using their money to cast their votes’: ‘People are using these methods to re-examine the accusation that I evaded taxes’, he added.
Responding to state criticism that, as one of the world’s most successful artists, he is hardly needs to borrow money, Ai Weiwei commented, ‘Yes, I am very wealthy, but this is a separate issue’; ‘I will repay every cent of the loans. One person’s innocence is tied together to a country’s innocence. I’m not doing this to profit myself.’ This fact is evident in the messages of support that companied many of the donations, with one reading, ‘The whole family has been mobilized, everyone will be creditors’.