The original letter from the visa section of the British Embassy in Beijing that Ai posted says that he had been refused the six-month visa because he failed to disclose relevant information about criminal convictions in China. The letter says:

It is a matter of public record that you have previously received a criminal conviction in China, and you have not declared this.

But Ai says he has never been convicted of a crime in China. The artist posted a response in which he said he “has never been charged or convicted of a crime” in China. He was detained without charge for 81 days in 2011—and only just got his passport back from that incident. In 2010, he received a fine for tax evasion as part of a civil case, which Ai says was politically motivated.

A sign along the top of the Tate Modern art gallery reads "'Release Ai Weiwei" in London April 8, 2011
A sign at the Tate in 2011.
Image: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

Ai’s post had said that he “attempted to clarify this claim with the UK Visas and Immigration Department and the British Embassy in Beijing over several telephone conversations, but the representatives insisted on the accuracy of their sources and refused to admit any misjudgment.”

Many in the UK will be looking forward to his attendance of the autumn show. The public has already pledged £55,000 ($86,000) to a Kickstarter campaign aimed at crowdfunding an installation of eight huge tree sculptures at the exhibition of the Chinese dissident artist’s work.

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