Art: Thousands Rally to Help Chinese Political Artist

Ai helped design Beijing's famous "bird's nest" Olympic stadium

Ai helped design Beijing’s famous “bird’s nest” Olympic stadium

To help famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei with the massive tax bill he has been served by the government, thousands have donated more than 5 million yuan (£490,000). Some have travelled great distances just to leave cash at his door.

Others have handed over money using bank transfers and postal orders, all to help the artist pay back the $2.4 million in taxes and fines that the government is demanding.

Outspoken artist

The internationally renowned artist started receiving money shortly after he announced that he had received the demand, with his volunteer Liu Yanping saying on Twitter that more than 20,000 people have so far pitched in to help.

Workers on the compound where Ai Weiwi lives and works have reportedly found cash folded into paper planes, that were then sent flying over the wall of the compound.

The artist has said that the donations are an expression of how people feel about what happened to him, rather than a show of pity about his massive tax bill.

This is because Mr. Ai was detained at Beijing Airport earlier this year and then kept in custody for 81 days, or nearly three months.

Though he was released without charge in June, he was slapped with an accusation of tax evasion over late payments and fines connected to Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd. The firm produces the artist’s work, and the Chinese government has maintained that he is the “actual controller” at the firm though Ai says he is just a designer.

Politically motivated

Ai Weiwei, who helped designed the landmark “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium in Beijing, has said that the millions in fines and his detainment were all politically motivated. He believes the accusation of tax evasion is just a cover for political persecution.

Mr. Ai said that he was kept in a secret place during the nearly three months he was held, and during that time he was accused of trying to subvert state power. The artist has reportedly been linked with the so-called Jasmine Revolution, pro-democracy protests in China which were inspired by the Arab Spring and were quickly subdued by authorities.

While the artist has until the end of the way to pay his large fine, he has not decided what to do. Some experts say that even if he were to get the full fee in donations, Ai may run into trouble regardless because the authorities could deem this “illegal fundraising.”

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