4 Apr 2012

Chinese authorities ‘remove Weiwei webcams’

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei claims the Chinese authorities have taken down a website showing webcam pictures from his own home.

An image of Ai Weiwei taken by his webcam

The artist had placed four webcams around his Beijing home allowing his supporters – and the Chinese authorities – to go online and see what he is up to.

He placed one webcam over his bed, one over his computer (right), another in his studio and a fourth camera in the courtyard.

But Ai Weiwei revealed on his Twitter page that the cameras had been shut down.

His tweet said: “The cameras have been shut down. byebye to all the voyeurs.”

The 54-year-old was detained by the Chinese government in April 2011 in what Weiwei supporters called a crackdown on political activists.

Speaking to AFP before the cameras were shut down, he said: “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.

“It is the exact day, one year ago, that I went missing for 81 days. All my family and friends and everyone who cared were wondering where this guy was.

“So on the anniversary I think people may have worries. It’s a gift to them: I’m here and you can see me,” he said.”

He has been ordered to stay in Beijing for a year after his arrest, an order which expires on 22 June.

Last week, Chinese authorities upheld an earlier decision to force Ai Weiwei’s design company to pay a $2.4m (£1.55m) fine imposed by the tax bureau for ”back taxes”.

Activists have argued that the charges are politically motivated, as the artist has at times been an outspoken critic of the government.

His installations have included a montage of backpacks of children killed in poorly built schools in the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan.

He is also co-designing the pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery in London alongside architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron.