In Brief

Ai Weiwei: Home Office to rethink visa ban after outcry

Dissident Chinese artist had application rejected over 'criminal conviction'

Home Secretary Theresa May is to review the UK's decision to reject Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's application for a six-month business visa following outcry from his supporters.

UK immigration officials in Beijing claimed the dissident artist had not declared a criminal conviction in his home country.

But human rights lawyers and friends of the artist have said he was never charged or convicted of a crime in China.

Ai was detained for 81 days in 2011 and ordered to pay a $2.4m fine for allegedly unpaid taxes, but his supporters say Beijing was punishing him for his criticism of the Communist party.

Chinese authorities only returned his passport last week after confiscating it four years ago.

Yesterday he travelled to Germany on a short-term visa that allowed him access to 26 European countries, but not Britain.

Ai had planned to attend the opening of a major retrospective of his work at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in September.

Tim Marlow, the RA's artistic director, said he had been granted a 20-day visa so he can appear at the opening, but said the academy was "concerned" he had not been granted a six-month UK visa.

"As a Chinese citizen and leading cultural figure, Ai Weiwei deserves full rights of entry to the UK where his huge audience looks forward to greeting him for the first time in five years," said Marlow.

Liu Xiaoyuan, a human rights lawyer and friend of the artist, told The Guardian he could not understand the "ridiculous" ruling, while Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong-based human rights expert, suggested someone must have been "misinformed".

"Being subjected to residential surveillance is not the same thing as a criminal conviction," he said. "It's what the Chinese authorities call a coercive measure.

"You can't have a conviction without facing a court – even in China."

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