UK Apologizes to Ai Weiwei and Grants Him Full Visa

Ai Weiwei. Courtesy Center for the Creative Arts.
Ai Weiwei. Courtesy Center for the Creative Arts.

Following the UK’s shameful denial of a full 6-month visa to Ai Weiwei, British Home Secretary Theresa May has stepped in to grant the artist the document in a sensational u-turn.

The British government originally issued Ai with a 20-day visa only.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office told the Independent, “The home secretary was not consulted over the decision to grant Mr Ai a one month visa. She has reviewed the case and now instructed Home Office officials to issue a full six-month visa. We have written to Mr Ai apologizing for the inconvenience caused.”

Ai Weiwei published a picture of his 20-day visa on his Instagram. Photo: @aiww via Instagram

Ai Weiwei published a picture of his 20-day visa on his Instagram.
Photo: @aiww via Instagram

The initial refusal was explained by the British Government as a result of Ai’s failure to declare a criminal conviction in his application.

The artist was arrested in China and detained for 81 days in 2011, but was never formally charged or convicted of a crime.

Ai’s supporters claim the detention was politically motivated because of the dissident’s outspoken criticism on the Chinese government’s stance on human rights, democracy and free speech.

The artist, who is currently in Germany, will travel to London in September for the opening of his major solo show at the Royal Academy following the return of his confiscated passport that the Chinese authorities seized four years ago.

The Royal Academy show will include eight of Ai Weiwei's huge 'tree sculptures.' Photo: Ai Wei Wei/Royal Academy via The Guardian

The Royal Academy show will include eight of Ai Weiwei’s huge ‘tree sculptures.’
Photo: Ai Wei Wei/Royal Academy via The Guardian

Charles Saumarez Smith, the Royal Academy’s Chief Executive, told the Independent, “The Royal Academy of Arts very much welcomes news that the Home Office has now decided to grant Ai Weiwei the normal six-month business visa he originally applied for. We look forward to welcoming him at the Royal Academy for the opening of his major exhibition in September”


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