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Visa Restrictions Prevent Ai Weiwei from Six-Month Stay in England

Last week, Ai Weiwei Instagrammed himself holding his Chinese passport after authorities held it for four years. AI WEIWEI/INSTAGRAM

Last week, Ai Weiwei Instagrammed himself holding his Chinese passport after authorities held it for four years.

AI WEIWEI/VIA INSTAGRAM

Despite having finally gotten his passport back after Chinese authorities held it for four years, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is still facing travel restrictions.

Today, Ai Instagrammed a letter from British Embassy in Beijing telling him that he would be able to travel to England in mid-September, but only for 20 days. In response to a question on the visa application, Ai indicated that he had never been arrested. Ai has previously indicated that all charges against him were taken up with his design firm, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd.—Ai was never formally arrested.

“It is a matter of public record that you have previously received a criminal conviction in China, and you have not declared this,” the British Embassy wrote back to him. In what the embassy called “an exception,” Ai will still be able to travel to England, but only from September 9 to September 29. Although the opening of Ai’s exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, in London, is within that time window, Ai had planned for a much longer stay—he had applied for a six-month business visa.

As a form of protest, Ai also posted an Instagram of the visa that the British Embassy has supplied him and a statement curiously accompanied by an image of a bathroom. “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 phone conversations, but the representatives insisted on the accuracy of their sources and refused to admit any misjudgment,” the statement reads. “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 .”

In a statement given to the New York Times, the British Embassy claimed that Ai had been given his full requested dates of travel.

Currently, Ai is still set to travel to Berlin to visit his 6-year-old son. No difficulties have been reported in planning the trip to Germany.

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