$800,000 flown and thrown to Ai Weiwei to help him pay harassment tax bill
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, has received more than $800,000 from thousands of supporters in a bid to help him pay a tax bill, widely recognised as government harassment.
The Beijing tax bureau is demanding that Ai Weiwei pay 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) in taxes and fines. But, since denouncing these claims as harassment last week, the artist has reportedly received over 5.3 million yuan ($840,000) from almost 20,000 sympathetic donors.
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’.
The accusations of tax evasion against Ai Weiwei are merely the latest developments in a catalogue of government harassment. Earlier this year, Ai was detained for nearly three months during a general crackdown on dissent in china. These actions against Ai Weiwei have been interpreted by activists as government punishment for his often-outspoken criticism of the Chinese regime.