Ever since Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei was hit with a $2.4 million tax bill, or 15 million yuan, donations have been flying over the wall of the artist's compound in northeastern Beijing on the backs of paper airplanes.
Others wrapped 100 yuan notes - which roughly converts to $15.75 - around pieces of fruit and chucked it over the wall. Ai is also taking donations through PayPal and, so far, he has accrued $833,000 in donations from 18,829 people, according to a Twitter posting by his assistant, Liu Yanping.
It's surprising; it has really changed my perspective on people, he said in a telephone interview Sunday, describing how supporters, some of whom traveled from distant cities, have been delivering cash to his home, The New York Times reported.
The postal bureau has just notified me that there are 776 cash remittances that we need to go and pick up.
But the state-run Global Times newspaper suggested in a Monday editorial that experts could charge Ai with illegal fundraising for accepting contributions for the tax bill he is required to pay by Nov. 15.
One of China's best known artists, and an outspoken government critic, Ai was detained in April for economic crimes that included tax evasion through a company that handled his artwork, and for illegally destroying documents, according to the state-run media. Ai, who insists his prosecution is politically motivated, was held for 81 days at an undisclosed location.
Since he's borrowing from the public, it at least looks like illegal fundraising, the newspaper said. It will not alter the matter of Ai's tax evasion, something his followers don't even question.
The 54-year-old artist told the Associated Press on Monday that his donors were using their money to make a political statement.
This shows that a group of people who want to express their views are using their money to cast their votes, he said. It shows that in the Internet age, society will have its own judgment and its own values.
The donations started pouring in on Thursday, some accompanied with political statements. You helped them to design the Bird's Nest, but they sent you into a bird cage, one donor said, referring to Ai's role in designing the Olympic stadium in Beijing. You charged them fees, but now they fine you more than hundreds of times that in blood and sweat.
Ai insists on describing the money as loans that he will repay.