The Beijing tax bureau is demanding that the dissident artist pay 15 million yuan ($2.4 million) in back taxes and fines. Ai denies tax evasion. As of Wednesday, Ai had received 6,725,139 yuan from thousands of people wanting to help pay the bill that they see as unfair, he wrote online Thursday.
Ai, an internationally acclaimed conceptual artist, was detained for nearly three months earlier this year during an overall crackdown on dissent. The detention and subsequent claims of tax evasion have been interpreted by activists as a way to punish him for his often-outspoken criticism of the authoritarian government.
Rather than use the contributions to help pay off the tax bill, Ai will put the money toward contesting the legitimacy of the charges. He must pay an 8.5 million yuan guarantee before even being allowed to make an appeal.
Ai's wife, Lu Qing, told The New York Times that they "demand the case be reopened because all procedures were wrong and most were illegal."
Ai also says he will treat the contributions from supporters not as donations, but loans to be paid back.
Bonus quote from Gao Ying, Ai's perceptive 80-year-old mother who is contemplating mortgaging or selling her home to support her son: “I have these words for the authorities: creepy, crooked, evil."