Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) said yesterday that he had set up four live webcams in his home in a symbolic reference to the 24-hour police surveillance he has been subjected to since his detention a year ago.
Ai — whose activism has made him a long-standing thorn in the side of Chinese authorities — disappeared into custody on April 3 last year as police rounded up dissidents amid online calls for Arab-style protests in China.
He was eventually released in June, but was given a one-year probation during which he cannot leave Beijing and he has been subjected to constant police surveillance.
“In my life, there is so much surveillance and monitoring — my phone, my computer ... Our office has been searched, I have been searched, every day I am being followed, there are surveillance cameras in front of my house,” he said. “So I was wondering, why don’t I put some [cameras] in there so people can see all my activities. I can do that and I hope the other party [authorities] can also show some transparency.”
When he was released, Ai was charged with tax evasion linked to Fake Cultural Development Ltd — a firm founded by Ai, but owned by his wife.
He has denied the charge and insists it is an attempt to silence his activism.
“Until now, there have been no clear answers as to why they put me in this kind of situation,” he said.
The webcams project includes a camera set up over his bed and one at his desk, and it can be accessed on weiweicam.com.
Ai’s one-year probation is expected to end on June 22.
“[On that day,] I’m supposed to be a free man, unless they accuse me again and put me in jail. Otherwise, I should be free, but I don’t know, it’s never really clear,” he said.