Ai Weiwei Returns Fans’ Donations, Concedes Tax Fight Against Chinese Authorities

After losing his final appeal against the Chinese government last month, artist and activist Ai Weiwei has resolved to pay a fine leveled against the firm that fabricates many of his designs, Fake Cultural Development Ltd., and return the money for legal fees donated to him by fans and supporters.

“We have no more options to keep trying,” Ai told the Guardian. “We’ve done what we could, and the court’s decision has been made. So we should repay the money.”

The $2.4 million tax fine imposed on Ai’s firm closely followed his 81-day detainment last year, which many observers saw as retribution for the artist’s ongoing criticisms in both his work and public commentary of the government’s lack of transparency and censorship of dissenting voices.

The donations had allowed Ai and his lawyers to pay a $1.3 million guarantee, which permitted them to begin the appeals process. But after the last option to avoid paying the full fine was exhausted last month the artist decided to return their money — which he had considered loans from the start — in addition to paying the remaining $1.1 million.

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image: Still from Ai Weiwei, “Grass Mud Horse,” 2012. Courtesy the artist.)