For the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, it is not about the money, it is a chance to let the Chinese public to voice their support of him and disapproval of Chinese government unjust accusation/judgement. Read along to find out what these two donations signify:
512 yuan, about $80
89.64 yuan, or about $14
Washington Post, “Ai Weiwei fans raise funds to pay his massive tax bill”
“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.”
BBC English, “Ai Weiwei China tax bill paid by supporters” (with English interview)
“By Monday, there had been donations totalling more than 5m yuan ($790,000; £490,000) to pay off the $2.4m in taxes and fines the authorities say he owes.
Many people believe he was served the bill because of his outspoken criticism of the government rather than because he had evaded taxes.
But a state-run newspaper has warned that the donations could be illegal.”
BBC Chinese, “艾未未解釋「借債繳稅」問題” (with Chinese interview, different questions)
The Guardian, “Chinese state press questions donations to Ai Weiwei”
“Among the donors was Zhao Lianhai, who became an activist for food safety after his child was sickened by baby formula tainted with the additive melamine in 2008. Another was a father who wanted to recognize Ai’s efforts to publicize the plight of children killed by collapsing schools in the devastating Sichuan province earthquake. The man sent in 512 yuan, about $80, marking the date of the earthquake: May 12, 2008.
Even more provocative was the tribute from Jason Ng, a well-known technology blogger. He sent in 89.64 yuan, or about $14. Anybody in China would recognize the significance: June 4, 1989 was the date of the brutal crackdown on student demonstrators at Tiananmen Square.”
“”Couples have driven by on motorcycles and [the passenger] has thrown the donation from the pillion,” Mr Ai, who has earned government ire for his relentless criticism, said in an interview with The Independent yesterday.
“I’m surprised and I’m happy. This shows that nobody believes this wrong accusation by the police,” said Mr Ai, who spent 81 days in custody earlier this year on charges of tax evasion, before being handed the huge tax bill. The 54-year-old said he was “very touched” by the donations which have flooded in since an online campaign began late last week to help him to clear the fine.”
“”The postal bureau has just notified me that there are 776 cash remittances that we need to go and pick up,” Ai — also a vocal rights activist — told AFP Monday morning, adding more than four million yuan had already been donated.
By early afternoon, that sum had risen to 5.29 million yuan with 18,829 people contributing towards the bill, Liu Yanping — who works with Ai — told AFP.”
Washington Post Editorial Board Opinion – “In China, putting a price on democracy”
“CHINESE AUTHORITIES must have thought they had cornered the dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who is renowned for his avant-garde productions and for his willingness to speak up for human rights. A week ago they presented him with an enormous tax bill — 15 million yuan, or about $2.4 million — and ordered him to pay it within 15 days. Should he fail to do so, his lawyer said, he could be returned to prison — where he suffered 81 days of harsh and unjustified confinement earlier this year. This time, authorities could claim that the artist was being legally punished.
Imagine the surprise of the security apparatchiks, then, at what has since happened: Thousands upon thousands of Chinese — 18,829 by Monday afternoon, according to one report — have voluntarily and spontaneously contributed money to help pay Mr. Ai’s fine. Funds have flooded in by mail order and the Chinese version of Paypal. After the artist’s microblog account was shut down Sunday, people began traveling to his studio in Beijing, where they have been throwing contributions over the walls, sometimes attached to fruit or folded into paper airplanes.”
Here is a great PBS short doc that tells you more about Ai, “Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei – He’s China’s first global art star who is using his fame to push the boundaries of freedom in that country. But he’s walking a fine line…”
Nov 8 update:
“Loan” update from volunteer helping Ai Weiwei 23:00, Nov 8th Beijing time: total $6,251,388 yuan and 22835 micro loans. “” @duyanpili 截止8日23时，@aiww 欠债最新情况：总金额6251388元，交易22835笔。其中支付宝17790笔2327528元，建行卡2959笔2434517元，paypal收792 笔290522元，现金254笔764534元，邮局汇款1040笔434288元。谢。