Chinese artist Ai Weiwei repays supporters' donations

File photo: Ai Weiwei Artist Ai Weiwei is an outspoken critic of the government

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Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has said he is starting to return money to supporters donated to help his design firm challenge a tax evasion fine.

His Fake Cultural Development firm has exhausted all legal options to overturn the 15m yuan ($2.4m, £1.5m) fine authorities imposed in 2011.

Supporters had sent money through bank transfers and even paper airplanes flown over the artist's house.

Mr Ai had said he would pay back the money he received.

The dissident lost an appeal against the tax evasion fine in July, and a Beijing court in September rejected his challenge to that decision.

The 55-year-old is a designer for the firm, while his wife is its legal representative.

He had used the donations to pay a $1.3m fee required to challenge the tax fine.

"We have no more options to keep trying," he told the Associated Press agency.

"We've done what we could and the court's decision has been made. So we should repay the money."

He added that he would try to repay the tens of thousands of donors, starting with the small amounts.

The artist, an outspoken critic of the government, was detained for almost three months without charge last year.

After he was released, he was accused of tax evasion and the fine imposed.

One of China's best known artists, he has spoken out against human rights abuses and urged Beijing to reform its political system.

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