Online donations are still pouring in from all corners of China and around the world as supporters of the dissident-artist Ai Weiwei chip in to help him out with the RMB15 million fine for tax evasion that he’s been given 15 days to cough up, even before any court has heard the case. It’s a spontaneous, collective middle finger that they’ve thrusted at the powers that be for the injustice they see in the 81-day detention that Ai was put through last year as authorities scrambled to prevent the Jasmine Revolution from spreading to China.
As of yesterday, some 20,000 donors have wired RMB3.5 million yuan to Ai Weiwei, and while there are no signs that Alipay and Paypal have frozen the accounts yet, some donors have reported being unable to send money to the Paypal account.
An opinion by the Global Times published this morning attempts t broadbrush the campaign as being drummed up by unfriendly foreign instigators:
This event has been interpreted by some foreign media as the Chinese people donating to Ai’s cause. The action has also been regarded as a special protest by the artist.
Some experts have pointed out this could be an example of illegal fund-raising. Since he’s borrowing from the public, it at least looks like illegal fund-raising. Meanwhile, as Western media reported, Ai purchased an upscale apartment in Berlin last year, and had planned to buy a 4,800-square-meter studio this year also in Berlin. Does he need to borrow money to pay off his tax evasion? However, as we are neither legal or tax professionals, these are not the key points we have tried to make.
It might be true that a few people in China would like to give him some money. Some donators said they view the donation as an act of voting. But the thing here is, Ai’s borrowing and the subsequent donations will not make any substantive change to Ai’s case. First, it will not alter the matter of Ai’s tax evasion, something his followers don’t even question. But many hold the view that tax evasion is rampant in China. This time, it is an excuse Chinese authorities have used to punish the dissident.
The donations will not change the public’s attitude toward Ai’s case, either. It is absolutely normal for a certain number of people to show their support for him with donations. But these people are an extremely small number when compared with China’s total population. Ai’s political preference along with his supporters’ cannot stand for the mainstream public, which is opposed to radical and confrontational political stances.
Excuse me while I larf and barf at the same time.