LONDON (AP) — Britain performed an about-face Friday and granted a six-month visa to dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, apologizing for rejecting his application over an alleged criminal conviction.
On Thursday Ai disclosed that the British embassy in Beijing had turned down his request for a business visa, saying he had failed to disclose a criminal conviction. Instead it gave him a visa covering 20 days in September, when a major exhibition of Ai's work is opening at London's Royal Academy.
Ai, who often uses his work to draw attention to corruption and injustices in Chinese society, was jailed for almost three months in 2011 amid a wider crackdown on dissent in China. His company was later accused of tax evasion and ordered to pay $2.4 million. Ai's lawyer said that was not a criminal case.
Britain's Home Office said Friday that Home Secretary Theresa May had looked into the case and told officials to grant the six-month visa.
The ministry said it had written to Ai "apologizing for the inconvenience caused."
After his release from prison in 2011 Ai was placed under a travel ban that was only fully lifted when his passport was returned last week. On Thursday he flew to Germany, where members of his family live.