31/07/2015 13:28 BST | Updated 31/07/2015 13:59 BST

Ai Weiwei Given Full Visa After Home Office Climbdown Over Artist's Permit Blunder

Matthias Schrader/AP
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei answers to questions of journalists after his arrival at the airport in Munich, Germany, Thursday, July 30, 2015. Ai Weiwei is on his way to Berlin where part of his family lives. Standing at right is Bavarian Green politician Margarethe Bause. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

The Home Office has been left red-faced after it was forced to apologise for wrongly denying a visa to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

The activist, famous for designing Beijing's Olympic stadium and an outspoken critic of China's ruling communist party, had planned on travelling to London for a landmark exhibition of his work.

But after Ai uploaded a picture of the Home Office letter denying him a full visiting permit, the government backed down, insisting Home Secretary Theresa May had not been consulted on the issue.

ai weiwei

Ai's artwork, valued at between £2m-3m, pictured at a central London display in February 2015

A spokesman for her department said: "The Home Secretary was not consulted over the decision to grant Mr Ai a one-month visa.

"She has reviewed the case and has now instructed Home Office officials to issue a full six-month visa.

"We have written to Mr Ai apologising for the inconvenience caused."

The artist originally spoke out on Thursday, posting the message he had received from the British embassy in Beijing the previous day.

A photo posted by Ai Weiwei (@aiww) on

Officials originally denied him the six-month visa but said Ai would be “exceptionally” granted a 20-day visa for dates in September.


It emerged he had been refused a six-month residence visa to the UK on the grounds of a "criminal conviction", a claim he denied.