Chinese artist Ai Weiwei gets visa to Germany

Dissident gets back passport following a four-year confiscation in a surprise move

Afp July 28, 2015
Ai Weiwei poses with his passport in Beijing in this handout picture. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING: Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has been given a visa to travel to Germany, he told AFP, just days after police handed him back his passport following a four-year confiscation. China’s best-known contemporary artist abroad, authorities denied Ai a passport after detaining him for 81 days in 2011, apparently attempting to limit his international influence.

Police returned the document last week and the bearded conceptualist, whose six-year-old son currently lives in Germany, revealed that he had received the visa, without divulging details. Ai told the New York Times last week that he would travel to Germany “as soon as I get a visa.”

Friends posted pictures of the document online, showing that it was valid for four years of multiple entries to the country, starting last Friday. Ai last week published a photograph of himself clutching a red Chinese passport online, with the words, “Today, I received a passport,” later confirming that it was his.

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It’s not clear whether having a passport and visa means Ai will be able to enter and exit China freely. Where many Chinese dissidents have been detained at airports while trying to leave the country, some activists, who have left the mainland, have found themselves not allowed back.

The Royal Academy of Arts in London said it expected Ai would travel to Britain ahead of his exhibition opening there on September 19. Ai’s non-attendance at the event would’ve generated negative headlines just weeks before China’s President Xi Jinping is due to make a high-profile visit to London.

The artist, who has released a heavy-metal album and cites French artist Marcel Duchamp, the father of conceptual art, as an inspiration, is known for his irreverent humour. The burly son of a poet revered by China’s first generation of Communist leaders, Ai helped to design the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Games, an event that brought the ruling party worldwide prestige.

But his outspoken criticism of China’s leaders and involvement in controversial social campaigns went on to make him a thorn in the government’s side, subjecting much of his work to censorship domestically. 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th,  2015.

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