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British Official Intervenes, Gives Chinese Artist Full Visa

  • VOA News

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is surrounded by media as he arrives at the airport in Munich, Germany, July 30, 2015.

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is surrounded by media as he arrives at the airport in Munich, Germany, July 30, 2015.

The British Home Office has reversed itself and granted outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei a six-month visa to visit Britain.

The visa was initially restricted to 20 days because the artist was accused of lying about his "criminal record" on his application form.

On Friday, Home Secretary Theresa May not only instructed officials to grant the six-month visa but also apologized to Ai.

Ai, who is currently in Germany visiting his son, had applied for the visa to attend the installation and opening of his art exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts in September.

The 57-year-old frequent critic of the Chinese government has never been formally charged with or convicted of a crime, despite being repeatedly harassed, arrested and fined by Chinese authorities.

In 2011, Ai was imprisoned for nearly three months. A company he is affiliated with was later fined $2.4 million for tax evasion, a penalty he says was leveled against him because of his activism.

The new visa means Ai will be authorized to be in Britain when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the country in October.

The artist rose to international prominence after designing Beijing's Bird Nest Stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games.

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