British authorities have denied a six-month entry visa to Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei after he failed to declare his criminal conviction on his visa application.
The prominent artist and human rights advocate posted a copy of the UK Home Office’s justification for the move on Instagram. The letter stated that Ai’s requested visit had been restricted to September 9-29 only.
The letter said: “It is a matter of public record that you have previously received a criminal conviction in China, and you have not declared this.”
The letter goes on to add that an exception was granted in his case and that any future applications “must be completed as accurately as possible.” The letter warned that failure to do this could incur a a 10-year ban from entering the UK.
Supporters of the artist criticised the UK Home Office’s decision. One user said “You were kidnapped, not arrested… Such injustice.” whilst another asked, “Did the German government treat Weiwei the same as the UK government?”
He will still be able to attend the opening of his new installation at the Royal Academy of Arts, which is due to take place from September 19 to December 13. State media reported that the exhibition opening dates coincide with President Xi Jinping’s first ever state visit to the UK in October. Xi’s number two Premier Li Keqiang made his first visit to the UK last year.
The news comes after Chinese authorities returned Ai’s passport to him on July 22, four years after it was confiscated.
Ai was arrested for alleged tax evasion at Beijing International Airport in April 2011 as he was about to board a flight to Hong Kong. He was released three months later but was prohibited from travelling to other countries until July this year.
A few days after his passport was returned to him, Ai confirmed via Instagram that he was granted a visa to enter Germany, which is where his six-year-old son lives.
Chinese artist @aiww is now on what looks to be a Lufthansa flight. “I boarded,” he tells @washingtonpost. pic.twitter.com/v7fwfMQzhz
— Emily Rauhala (@emilyrauhala) July 30, 2015
Ai is best known for designing Beijing’s Olympic stadium, the Bird’s Nest. In the UK he is also known for filling the Tate Modern, one of country’s biggest art galleries, with ceramic sunflower seeds.
Update 7:25pm : A spokesperson from the Royal Academy of Arts released the following statement from Tim Marlow, the Artistic Director at the Royal Academy of Arts.
He said: “We’re concerned that Ai Weiwei has not been granted a six month UK visa by the British government. We hope for a speedy resolution to this situation and we continue to look forward to welcoming Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy for his first major institutional exhibition in the UK this September.”