Ai Weiwei thumbs nose at China as donations pour in


Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has long been a thorn in the side of Communist authorities. He was detained for 81 days earlier this year without any official charges being filed. The incident raised an international outcry.

He was finally released on the condition that he not talk to the press about his time in detention. But as time passed, Ai chafed against this restriction and started writing on Twitter, a Chinese microblogging platform called weibo.com, and even penning a short article for Newsweek. Soon after, the Communist authorities slapped him with a 15 million RMB bill, supposedly for unpaid taxes and fines. That’s about US$2.4 million.

When Ai went public with his plight, he was met with a groundswell of support from Chinese netizens. Donations poured in through his Weibo microblog, through wire transfers, even by cash folded into paper airplanes and thrown into his yard. In just three days, Ai raised five million RMB, or about a third of the total bill, from close to 19,000 donors.

It’s not just about the money. Ai is a successful artist and probably could have found the money to pay the bill on his own. But by reaching out to the public for small donations, Ai and his supporters are sending a message to the Chinese authorities.

“This shows that a group of people who want to express their views are using their money to cast their votes,” Ai said. The artist said the donation he has received will eventually be repaid.

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