The Government has reversed a decision to reject a six-month UK visa application from Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.
Home Secretary Theresa May ordered officials to issue the six month visa to the artist after his application was initially turned down over allegations he had ‘lied’ on the form. Mrs May also issued an apology to Ai, who is coming to the UK for a major exhibition of his work at the Royal Academy in London.
Immigration officials originally refused his six month visa application because they claimed he had failed to declare a ‘criminal conviction’. Although Ai was held by the Chinese authorities for 81 days four years ago, he was never charged with an offence and was not convicted of any crime. In 2012, he was fined for tax evasion in a civil action, which Ai claims was politically motivated because he had criticised the Chinese government.
Posting on his Instagram account, Ai said he had never been charged or convicted of a crime and said he had “attempted to clarify this claim with the UK Visas and Immigration Department and the British Embassy in Beijing over several telephone conversations”. But he claimed the officials had insisted their sources were correct and would not back down.
He was initially granted a 20-day visa to come to the UK for his exhibition but this has now been extended after the Home Secretary intervened in the case.
The Home Office said a letter of apology for the inconvenience caused had been sent to the artist.
A spokesperson added: “The Home Secretary was not consulted over the decision to grant Mr Ai a one-month visa. She has reviewed the case and has now instructed Home Office officials to issue a full six-month visa.”