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Last updated at 17:38 GMT, Monday, 07 November 2011

Ai Weiwei's tax bill


7 November 2011

Thousands of people have donated money to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to help him pay a tax bill of $2.4 million. Many, including the artist himself, believe he's been served with the bill because of his outspoken criticism of the government rather than his financial affairs.

Michael Bristow

Ai Weiwei

Artist and architect Ai Weiwei.


Click to hear the report


Nearly 20,000 people have donated. They've used bank transfers, sent postal orders or simply handed over cash in person. Some have folded money into paper planes and flown them over the wall of the artist's Beijing compound.

Ai Weiwei says the campaign to help him isn't just about the money. He says it's an expression of people's feelings about the way he's been treated.

The authorities accuse him of tax evasion and want him to pay $2.4 million. But many believe this is just a cover to punish a fierce government critic.

Officials, they say, don't like his dogged pursuit of controversial issues.

Ai Weiwei says he hasn't decided whether to pay the tax bill. If he does, and uses this donated money, there could still be problems. One newspaper suggested it amounted to illegal fundraising.

More evidence, his supporters might say, that the authorities are simply trying to get at the artist any way they can.

Michael Bristow, BBC News


Click to hear the vocabulary


bank transfers

a method of moving money from one bank account to another

postal orders

official documents with an amount of money printed on them which can be exchanged at a post office for real money

paper planes

toy aeroplanes made from folded paper


a property or group of buildings protected by fences and security

tax evasion

the crime of not paying money owed to a tax-raising authority

a cover

an official excuse which disguises the true reason

a fierce government critic

a person with strong public opinions against the government

dogged pursuit

very determined following of

illegal fundraising

collecting money in a way which is against the law

to get at

to criticise