In a strong affront to the Chinese government’s attempt to censor artists and internet users, fans of the artist Ai Weiwei have raised more than $830,000 in three days through social media to help the artist fight a $2.4 million tax bill from the state.
Weiwei, who was imprisoned for 81 days this spring without any charges filed against him, has been a target of the Chinese government for his politically outspoken art. On Nov. 1, Weiwei announced that the government had presented him with a bill for $2.4 million in back taxes, and gave him 10 days to pay.
Since a fundraising drive began Friday, more than 18,829 people have contributed money toward the bill, Weiwei’s associate Liu Yanping told AFP.
"The postal bureau has just notified me that there are 776 cash remittances that we need to go and pick up," Weiwei told AFP. Donations have come through the mail and online, and some contributors have even thrown cash over the walls of his courtyard home. "Every morning we have to pick up the money thrown into the courtyard. Sometimes they are folding it into planes or boats," he said.
However, a state-run newspaper editorial suggested that Weiwei could be charged with “illegal fundraising” for accepting the funds. The government has also censored search terms related to the donations.
Weiwei has told his fans that he does not need the money, and that he plans to pay back the donations. He has given some contributors hand-crafted sunflower seeds from his 2010 installation at the Tate Modern as a thank you. "What I need is the ethical support of everybody. I don't need the money," he said.
Previously: ‘Dead’ Ai Weiwei sculpture scares German town