By Cal Widdall
On the anniversary of his 81 day detainment, controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has installed four live webcams in his home as a symbolic reference to the 24-hour police surveillance he has been under during the past year. He says the move is a gift to those who are worried for his safety, and also to the Public Security Bureau that is watching him day and night.
The four cameras are located in his office, courtyard, and even his bedroom, adding to the 15 surveillance cameras within a 100m stretch of road outside his home which now stands as the most-watched area of Beijing. He explained his reasoning to Agence France Presse:
“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.”
Ai also said he’s “doing OK” and has regained all the weight lost during his detention. He is currently preparing an exhibition due to take place in Washington DC this autumn.
His one-year probation is expected to end on June 22, but last week Chinese authorities upheld the tax bureau’s hefty 15 million RMB fine for ‘back taxes’, which are widely believed to be politically motivated.
Ai’s recent comments regarding the end of his probation were pessimistic, highlighting the Kafka-esque circumstances he faces. “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.