Teresa May, Britain’s Home secretary has ordered officials to issue the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei a full six-month UK visa, reversing an earlier decision not to grant him the travel document.
“If the decision was made to find favour with the Chinese, it will have important ramifications”, the Independent newspaper had editorialized on Friday, before the Home Office reversed course and granted the six-month visa.
Later, the spokesman added: “This case did not come to the Home Secretary, and she is now looking into it”.
Ai, 58, posted the letter from the United Kingdom Visa and Immigration Department on his Instagram account. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.
Ai and human rights groups insist the artist has no convictions, and was never charged with a crime.
Ai, who often uses his work to draw attention to corruption and injustices in Chinese society, was jailed for nearly three months in 2011 amid a wider crackdown on dissent in China.
He was initially only granted a visa for 20 days after UK Home Office officials ruled that he had failed to disclose a criminal conviction on his application form.
The British Home Office noted that the visa it granted to Ai would cover the dates he had requested for his visit.
The Royal Academy of Arts chief executive, Charles Saumarez Smith welcomed the decision. One possible factor in all this is that Chinese president Xi Jinping is due to make a state visit to London in October. The world-renowned artist maintains the charges were trumped up in retaliation for his criticism of the government.
The British government originally issued Ai with a 20-day visa only.
Ai was seeking the visa in order to attend an exhibition of his work in London, according to Yahoo!
The initial refusal was explained by the British Government as a result of Ai’s failure to declare a criminal conviction in his application.
Ai is now in Germany where he arrived on Thursday to see his six-year-old son who lives in Berlin with his mother.