Chinese art-dissident Ai Weiwei can't seem to catch a break lately. On July 22, the Chinese government reinstated the prominent artist's passport, and his freedom to leave China, which he'd been denied for four years. Seven days later, Ai just now wrote on Instagram that the UK is restricting his visa over some trumped-up BS about his China “criminal records.”
Ai says the British authorities denied him a six-month entry visa after he failed to declare his criminal conviction in China on the visa application. That 2011 conviction on “financial crimes” is widely understood to have been a baseless, punitive action by the Chinese government against one of its most famous critics.
As the Wall Street Journal's Jerome Cohen wrote at the time of his conviction, Ai was "never formally arrested, not to mention indicted, tried, convicted or sentenced."
But that doesn't seem to matter to the British government. Ai also posted to Instagram an image he says is the letter he received from the UK Home Office. The government letter explains that his requested visit is restricted to the period beginning September 9 and ending September 29, 2015, rather than the longer stay for which he applied.
He is scheduled to be in the UK in September for a big exhibition at London's Royal Academy of Arts.
The Instagram post reads:
Ai Weiwei may not be able to attend his exhibition installation and opening at the Royal Academy of Arts in September 2015, due to the UK Visas and Immigration Department's claim that Ai had submitted false information regarding his criminal records in his application for the UK business visa, and decision to issue a 20-day entry visa instead of the requested six-month business visit visa for London. In a letter, the department states that "It is a matter of public record that you have previously received a criminal conviction in China", and in further conversations, referencing news about Ai's secret detention by the Chinese authorities in 2011 and the tax case for Fake Design. 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 telephone conversations, but the representatives insisted on the accuracy of their sources and refused to admit any misjudgment. 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 .