Ai Weiwei is currently in London installing his exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), has revealed how he was uncertain whether the UK government would grant a visa without restrictions to visit Britain. “I had a 27-minute conversation with the British Ambassador [in China] at the airport,” the artist told a packed press conference today (11 September). Ai had been accused of lying on his visa application form”. The artist’s request for a six month visa was rejected by the Entry Clearance Manager from the UK Visas and Immigration department, resulting in him posting the letter on Instagram that went viral.
After a thorough social media campaign on behalf of the artist, the embarrassing decision was reversed byTeresa May, Britain’s Home secretary, who ordered officials to issue the Chinese artist a full six-month UK visa, reversing an earlier decision not to grant him the travel document.
Now the artist has praised Germany for its response to the refugee crisis, after Ai arrived in Munich at the end of July as thousands of refugees were trying to reach the city, many of which were from Syria. The artist added that he believed the British people too “have very strong compassion” to the plight of “desperate people”.
The Chinese dissident Artist has stated that he expects to be allowed to return to China when his retrospective exhibition is complete, at the Royal Academy in London. It has been four years since the Chinese authorities confiscated his passport and he was kept under virtual house arrest in Beijing. Now Ai is due to start teaching in the German capital, a three-year appointment at the Berlin University of the Arts.
The artist recalled his detention by the Chinese authorities,including an “unprecedented” tax bill, he said that was difficult for him, his family and friends. His solicitors are still detained and the tax bill is unresolved, he added. The artist also revealed that he is in almost daily contact with the police by phone and text message. “They say, ‘you should do this or consider not doing that,'” adding that on the whole the Chinese authorities have not interfered with his art, apart from on two occasions.
The artist added a personal note saying that during his detention his son had had nightmares that Ai would never be freed.
Image: Ai Weiwei. Photo via Royal Academy/Twitter