Ai accused of damaging camera outside his home
Maverick artist Ai Weiwei said yesterday he had been summoned by police for allegedly damaging surveillance cameras outside his house.
He denied intentional damage, but admitted a provocative prank designed to mock the authorities.
Ai (pictured) said he was approached by four policemen late on Sunday as he was returning home. They accused him of damaging public property and took him in for questioning for about two hours.
Ai refused to say what he had done but denied he was trying to damage one of about a dozen surveillance cameras installed around his house to monitor his movements. 'I didn't damage them and had no intention to do so,' he said. 'I can only say I detest those cameras ... and was just having a laugh.' He said he had once hung a red lantern under one of the cameras 'to make them look nicer'.
Ai, a renowned contemporary artist and a government critic, was detained by police for 81 days last year amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent. Released on bail but accused of tax evasion, he faces a bill for about 15 million yuan (HK$18.3 million) in alleged back taxes and penalties - although the Beijing tax bureau recently agreed to review the fine.
Police also questioned one of Ai's assistants over nude photographs of the artist and four women.
Ai admitted his act was provocative but insisted it was because his privacy and personal freedom had been infringed upon. 'Every one of my provocations has a reason- and too many people have been accepting [harassment] in silence,' he said.
Ai said humour was the only way a powerless citizen like himself could protest against constant government harassment. 'No matter how big and strong they are, they are very afraid of humour and jokes,' he said.
Supporters of Ai believe his activism has made him a target of the government's wrath.
Beijing police refused to comment.