China's Ai Weiwei blacked out after self-surveillance experiment

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Story highlights

  • Dissident artist Ai Weiwei set up four cameras at his home in Beijing
  • Ai: "Website has just been shut down by order of public security"
  • He was arrested and charged with tax evasion last year
  • His family and rights groups say the charges are politically motivated

It was intended as a nod to the constant surveillance he finds himself under since being released by Chinese authorities last year.

Dissident artist Ai Weiwei set up four cameras at his home in Beijing over his computer, bed and courtyard to broadcast a 24-hour live feed at a website he set up called weiweicam.com.

But soon after the cameras went live he was blacked out. His website displayed a blank screen.

Ai Weiwei turns camera on himself

"The website has just been shut down by order of public security," Ai told CNN late Wednesday.

The 54-year old, who helped design the iconic Bird's Nest Olympic stadium in Beijing, has endured a difficult relationship with Chinese authorities. Last year he was detained for 81 days and ordered to pay 15 million yuan ($2.38 million) in back taxes officials said he owed through his company, Fake Cultural Development Ltd.

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He paid 8.45 million yuan ($1.3 million) late last year so he could contest the charges. Had he not paid the sum, he said at the time, his wife would have been jailed.

Ai's family and human rights advocates have said they believe the Chinese government is targeting him for his criticism of the regime.

An internationally renowned artist, Ai's works -- often with political undercurrents -- command hundreds of thousands of dollars. His 2010 installation at the Tate Modern in London involved 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds, each one hand-painted by specialists in China, spread on the floor of the museum's large entrance hall.