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Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Denied 6-Month Visa by Britain


FILE - This handout picture released by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei on July 22, 2015, shows him posing with his passport in Beijing.

Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has arrived in Germany to visit has son, the first time he has left China since his passport was revoked in 2011 after a crackdown on dissidents. Chinese authorities gave him back his passport a week ago.

Ai said his travel plans were up in the air after British authorities refused to grant him a full six-month business visa, claiming he lied on a visa application form about his "criminal record."

Ai had applied for the visa to attend the installation and opening of his art exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts in September.

The U.K. Visas and Immigration office instead issued only a 20-day entry visa to the well-known dissident artist, according to a letter posted by Ai on his Instagram page Thursday.

The letter from the British Home Office 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 57-year-old frequent critic of Beijing 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 held for nearly three months and had his passport taken away. A company he is affiliated with was later fined $2.4 million for tax evasion, a penalty he said was leveled against him because of his activism.

The decision means Ai will not be authorized to be in Britain when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the country in October.

British authorities have denied the decision was made as a result of Chinese pressure or to prevent any potentially embarrassing protest that could be staged by Ai during Xi's visit.

Ai said he was recently given a four-year multiple entry visa by Germany.

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