Thousands of Ai Weiwei supporters lend money

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 November, 2011, 12:00am

Dissident artist Ai Weiwei's supporters have lent him money to help foot a 15.22 million yuan (HK$18.6 million) tax bill since Thursday night.

Ai, 54, who was detained for nearly three months earlier this year, had received more than 871,000 yuan from about 2,500 people by 7pm yesterday after his supporters volunteered to lend him money, Ai's assistant, Liu Yanping, said.

'Every penny will be repaid [to you]. Please leave your contact phone number or e-mail address [when you lend money],' Ai wrote on his Google plus account.

Ai and Liu posted details of four ways that supporters could lend him money after a flood of requests. The Beijing Local Taxation Bureau has demanded that Beijing Fake Cultural Development, Ai's company, pay its taxes and fines by November 16. Lu Qing, Ai' wife, is the legal representative of the design company.

Supporters can send money through the post office, to a bank account, through Alipay (a mainland third-party online payment platform), and PayPal.

Many of his supporters said it was a way to show their defiance to the authorities. 'If you are not wealthy you can at least spare five or 10 yuan because each postal remittance receipt says 'No' to the authorities', said an internet user on Twitter.

Artist Liu Qiming said on his Sina microblog account that Ai had transformed the incident into a piece of artwork, with thousands of people participating from around the world, even though Ai possibly did not need the money. A Sina microblogger said it was ironic that many people were volunteering to help Ai while turning a cold shoulder to the Chinese Red Cross, whose credibility was battered earlier this year by scandals that highlighted its lack of transparency.

Ai's supporters posted evidence of money lent to him on microblogging platforms, including post office remittance receipts and smartphone and computer screen shots.

Ai's mother and brother, who own his father's former Beijing residence, said they were willing to use it as a 8.45 million yuan guarantee, pending a bid for an administrative reconsideration from the Beijing tax office.