News Update: Teresa May, Britain’s Home secretary has ordered officials to issue the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei a full six-month UK visa, reversing an earlier decision not to grant him the travel document. This afternoon she told the BBC that she was personally “looking into” the case of the dissident Chinese artist, who had been refused a six-month visa by the British government.
The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been denied a six-month visa by the British government for allegedly lying on his visa application form. Mr Ai posted a letter (seen below) on his Instagram account stating that his entry to the UK had been rejected because of failing to declare his “criminal conviction”. Ai Weiwei was detained in China for 81 days in 2011, however he was never charged or convicted of an offence in China.
A statement on his website said; “Ai Weiwei may not be able to attend his exhibition installation and opening at the Royal Academy of Arts in September 2015, due to the UK Visas and Immigration Department’s claim that Ai had submitted false information regarding his criminal records in his application for the UK business visa, and decision to issue a 20-day entry visa instead of the requested six-month business visit visa for London. In a letter, the department states that “It is a matter of public record that you have previously received a criminal conviction in China”, and in further conversations, referencing news about Ai’s secret detention by the Chinese authorities in 2011 and the tax case for Fake Design. Ai, who has never been charged or convicted of a crime, attempted to clarify this claim with the UK Visas and Immigration Department and the British Embassy in Beijing over several telephone conversations, but the representatives insisted on the accuracy of their sources and refused to admit any misjudgment. This decision is a denial of Ai Weiwei’s rights as an ordinary citizen, and a stand to take the position of those who caused sufferings for human rights defenders”.
The visa section of the British Embassy in Beijing has sent a letter stating that Ai Weiwei’s entry to the UK “has been restricted to the requested dates of travel… because he has failed to meet the business visitor rules”. The document, signed by an entry clearance manager from UK Visas and Immigration department, continued: “It is a matter of public record that you have previously received a criminal conviction in China, and 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.” The British office added, the artist could face a 10-year ban if he did not comply. Britain’s Home Office said, visa applications were considered “on their individual merits and in line with the relevant legislation”. It added, “Mr Ai has been granted a visa for the full duration of his requested dates of travel”.
The artist has now been granted a 20-day visa to attend the opening of his landmark solo show at the Royal Academy of Arts. He is expected to travel to London in September.