Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei says he was denied a six-month visa to the U.K. because British officials said he didn’t list a criminal conviction on his application.
Ai applied for the six-month business visa, but was instead restricted to a 20-day travel visa from Sept. 9-29.
In a post on his Instagram account, Ai says he has never been charged with or convicted of a crime. But, he continues, the British immigration office cites a criminal conviction in China that is “a matter of public record,” which Ai says refers to his “secret detention by the Chinese authorities in 2011.”
As we reported, Ai was detained by authorities in 2011 as he was trying to fly to Hong Kong. Authorities took his passport, kept him in custody for 81 days and eventually fined him $2.4 million for tax evasion.
The Instagram post says Ai talked with immigration staff by phone but couldn’t convince them he had not committed a crime. He posted the letter from the U.K.’s immigration office to his Instagram on Thursday:
The 20-day visa will allow Ai to attend the opening of his upcoming art show at the Royal Academy of the Arts on Sept. 19 in London. But it might mean he can’t supervise the installation of what the BBC calls his “landmark solo exhibition.”
The academy’s artistic director, Tim Marlow, said in a statement that the art institution is concerned about Ai’s limited visa: “We hope for a speedy resolution to this situation and we continue to look forward to welcoming Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy for his first major institutional exhibition in the UK this September.”
Ai made his visa request after Chinese authorities returned his passport to him without explanation last week.
According to the U.K. immigration office letter, any future applications that Ai submits “must be completed as accurately as possible” — if not, any visa application might be refused and a 10-year ban could be applied.