Prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has installed four live webcams at his home in Beijing as a symbolic protest against the police’s 24-hour surveillance of him. [Update: The Chinese authorities ordered Ai to turn off his webcams yesterday on April 4.]
Last year on April 3 [zh], Ai Weiwei was arrested at the Beijing airport under the pretext of being “a threat to national security”. The police action was believed to be part of the crackdown of the call for Chinese Jasmine Revolution inspired by the Arab Spring. Ai was detained for 81 days in a secret location and interrogated more than 50 times for inciting state sedition, economic flaw, tax evasion, distribution of indecent and obscene photos, double marriage, illegal money exchange, etc.
He has been under probation since June 22, 2011. Since then he has been under constant surveillance by the police. There are at least 15 cameras outside his house.
The four webcams are placed parallel to his computer screen and near the ceiling to oversee his working desk, courtyard and bedroom. Below is a screen capture of him sleeping on April 3:
As a part of Ai Weiwei’s artivist performance to remember the anniversary of his disappearance, human rights lawyer and Ai’s friend Liu Xiaoyuan interviewed Ai on Twitter:
@ 刘晓原律师: 采访一下@aiww：在去年四月三日以前，是否想过会有被失踪的一天？曾有网友说过，凭你在杨佳案时写的文章，就足以判你个煽覆罪，坐个十年八年的牢。之 所以当年不抓你，是因为你父亲曾是高官？我不明白的是，为何在杨案件过去近三年后，又把你给抓了？难道你真是“反话”势力总指挥？
A less sarcastic explanation of his action can be found at New York Times. Ai Weiwei said to the news agency:
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. 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.