Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been refused a 6-month visa by the British government, which claims that he had lied on his visa application form. Ai has posted the letter he received from the visa section of the British embassy in Beijing on Instagram, with it stating that his entry into the U.K. has been restricted because he had failed to declare his “criminal conviction.”
Ai was detained in China for 81 days back in 2011, but he was held without charge and was never convicted of a crime in China. The artist was however granted a 20-day visa to attend the opening of his London show. This will mean that he will not be able to supervise the installation of his solo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, which has a private preview on September 15.
The letter stated that Ai’s entry to the U.K. “has been restricted to the requested dates of travel… because you have failed to meet the business visitor rules.”
The document, which was signed by an entry clearance manager from the U.K. Visas and Immigration department, said: “It is a matter of public record that you have previously received a criminal conviction in China, and you have not declared this. While an exception has been made in this instance, any future application you submit must be completed as accurately as possible.”
In a separate post on Instagram, Ai wrote that he has never been charged or convicted of any crime. He did try to clarify his claim “over several telephone conversations, but the representatives insisted on the accuracy of their sources and refused to admit any misjudgement.”
The authorities have returned Ai’s passport after confiscating it four years ago. It was taken after he was arrested in 2011 during the government crackdown on political activists. His detention had caused an international outcry. He was held for alleged crimes of bigamy and tax evasion, but was released without charge, a fact that has escaped the British bureaucrats who were processing his visa.
Ai was however fined 15m yuan ($2.4m, £1.55m) for tax evasion in a civil case in 2012. The artist did appeal against the fine, but lost.
Ai maintains that it was politically motivated and was retaliation for his criticism of the Chinese government.
Oddly enough, with only a 20-day visa, it will mean that he will not be in the U.K. when China’s President Xi Jinping is making his high-profile state visit in October. This would avoid any potentially diplomatic embarrassment while Britain is trying to improve relations with China. Is it a coincidance?
The artist is a well-known critic of the ruling Communist Party. Whether this is simply a mistake or an attempt to keep him out of the country while Xi Jinping is there, I’m sure his supporters will see this as an attempt by the U.K. to please Beijing.
Tell me what you think, and leave a comment.