Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has been rejected for a six month business visa to visit the UK.
The artist, a campaigner for human rights and a critic of China’s Communist party, accused the British authorities of turning their backs on those working to improve human rights in China.
Officials said that the visa application was turned down because Ai failed to declare that he had been detained by the Chinese authorities in 2011. He spent 81 days in secret detention following a crackdown on activists by the Chinese government, amid fears they were plotting a revolution.
He was also fined $2.4 million fine for allegedly unpaid taxes. However, his supporters said this was a politically motivated fine in response to his criticism of the authorities.
Ai Weiwei’s passport has just been returned to him after it was seized in 2011. He was granted a short term visa to visit the 26 Schengen countries, which does not include the UK, and has flown to Germany.
He had applied for a UK visa ahead of a major retrospective of his artwork at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in September. Organisers were hoping he would attend the opening.
Human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, a friend of the artist, told The Guardian: “I don’t know which country’s understanding of criminal conviction the rejection is based on. If it’s the Chinese one Ai certainly does not have a conviction.
“As a lawyer I don’t think Ai has a criminal conviction. Under Chinese law Ai’s case ended in the police investigation stage and has not reached the court. The case does not have a court sentence and hence by Chinese standard, Ai doesn’t have a criminal conviction.”
The Home Office said each visa application was judged on its individual merits.