Lifestyle & Belief

Supporters donate towards Ai Weiwei tax bill


Artist Ai Weiwei is a defiant critic of China's government.


Miguel Villagran

Thousands of people have donated an estimated 5.29 million yuan ($830,000) towards the tax bill given to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

The donation drive – to pay off $2.4 million in taxes and fines Ai was ordered to pay by Chinese authorities – began on Friday and gathered momentum via the internet, the BBC reported.

Earlier this year Ai, 54, disappeared into police custody for 81 days after being arrested at Beijing Airport as he tried to leave the country.

Read more on GlobalPost: "Dead" Ai Weiwei alarms German village

He was released without charge in June, but accused of tax evasion.

Some supporters threw money wrapped in paper planes into Ai’s garden, Agence France Press reported.

On Monday morning Ai told AFP that more than four million yuan of his 15 million yuan tax bill had already been donated. But the news agency said that by the early afternoon, that sum had risen to 5.29 million yuan.

Ai told the BBC:

"These donations are not just about money, they're an expression of people's feelings about what's happened ... I can only say that I'm very grateful and very touched by their actions."

A posting on the social networking site Twitter by, a volunteer at Ai’s studio, Liu Yanping, said that almost 20,000 people have so far donated.

However, in an editorial, the state-run Global Times newspaper said Monday that Ai could be charged with "illegal fundraising" for accepting contributions for his tax bill, AFP reported.

The bill is due to be paid by November 15.