(AFP) – Oct 30, 2012
BEIJING — Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei said Wednesday he had begun returning $1.3 million donated by supporters for his unsuccessful legal battle against tax authorities.
Supporters helped Ai raise the cash, which was required as a bond to contest a $2.4-million fine by the Beijing tax bureau last year. A city court rejected his final appeal last month.
"We have made our best effort and gone all the way through the legal procedure as much as we can, but this is the moment that we should pay supporters back because we cannot go any further," he told AFP.
Ai said he would attempt to pay back as many of the 30,000 donors as possible, and made the first instalment on Tuesday to those who had donated between one cent and 10 yuan ($1.6).
A total of 190 people received payments totaling just over 102 yuan ($16.3).
"A lot of people give us just a few cents, or less than 10 yuan, so we pay those who gave us these small amounts first," he told AFP.
Ai said it could take many months to repay his supporters. He also said many had told him they did not want the cash returned, but he will pay regardless.
The internationally renowned avant-garde artist, who has always denied the tax allegations, has emerged as a fierce government critic, often through his prolific use of the Internet and social media.
Earlier this month Ai's lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said the business licence of Fake Cultural Development, the company founded by the 55-year-old artist, would be revoked for failing to follow annual registration requirements.
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