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Thousands pay Ai Weiwei's tax bill

By Susannah Palk, CNN
November 9, 2011 -- Updated 1031 GMT (1831 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Over 20,000 people have made donations to help Ai Weiwei pay tax bill
  • The $2.3 million bill was issued after Ai was accused of tax evasion
  • More than $958,000 has been raised so far
  • Ai: "Donations are a political statement"

(CNN) -- Thousands of supporters have donated money to outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in order to pay a 15 million yuan ($2.3 million) tax bill from the Chinese government.

The controversial artist has already received more than 6,000,000 yuan ($958,000) from more than 22,200 people.

While many have sent money via post and the internet, other have resorted to rather unconventional methods -- folding bank notes into paper planes and throwing them into Ai's garden at night.

Speaking to CNN, Ai Weiwei said people were using their donations to make a political statement.

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Ai Weiwei's $2.3B bill for back taxes

"They would say we support you, we've never had a chance to express. This is such unfairness. It's not a fine to you but to us all," he said.

How Ai Weiwei became an Internet master

Ai received the $2.3 million tax bill on November 1 and was given 15 days to pay. It comes after the artist was detained by authorities in April on the grounds of tax evasion.

Ai has called the actions by Chinese authorities a "retaliation against a dissident" and says he has no choice but to pay the bill.

"They [the Chinese authorities] said if I pay it means I accept the accusation," he said. "But if you don't pay they can accuse you of another crime.

"Either way you're not going to be out. We can't stop to argue, we can't appeal, we can't go to the court," he continued.

The outpouring of support and donations has come as a surprise to the artist who said he never asked for money. He has also stressed he will pay back "every penny."

"We didn't expect so many people to be involved in it," he said. "Over 20,000 people in the past few days send money, this has never happened. It's unthinkable in this nation's history.

Interviewing Ai Weiwei, by Kristie Lu Stout

On his Google+ page, Ai has detailed various payment channels for the donations which include cash, PayPal, China Construction Bank, and the Chinese third-party payment network Alipay.

As well as support Ai says he has received further unwelcome attention from authorities, with an increased police presence around his compound in Beijing.

"There is much tighter control and armed police follow me. Also, I have to see them every other day," he said.

Kristie Lu Stout contributed to this report.

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