Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei could soon be travelling around the world again with his art. The artist who is also a prolific user of Instagram posted a photo of himself holding a Chinese passport to his 110,000 followers with the words, “Today, I got my passport.”
Chinese authorities revoked Ai’s travel rights four years ago, seizing the artist’s passport and declining requests to allow him to leave the country. During recent months, the artist and activist has been posting photos to Instagram of a bike with a front basket holding a new bouquet of flowers to mark another day without complete freedom. Ai posted the most recent one earlier on Wednesday, with the words, “Today is 600th day!”
Ai has been a frequent critic of the Chinese government’s policies. His acclaimed work often explores the limits placed on the right of people in China to express themselves, as well as his personal experience of incarceration. His activities and work frequently deal with sensitive issues that the Chinese government would prefer were not raised.
In 2010, Ai Weiwei was briefly detained and severely beaten by security officials just before he was due to testify for the defence during the trial of Tan Zuoren, an environmental activist who, along with Ai, had documented the names of thousands of children who died during the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
After persistent harassment from the authorities, Ai was detained in 2011 for 81 days without charge. A company he founded was later convicted of tax evasion by the Chinese authorities. The artist remained under surveillance and was unable to leave the country. Ai was released on one year’s probation in June 2011, but the government retained his passport.