UK: Home Secretary Overrules Home Office Decision to Ban Chinese Artist

The Home secretary is investigating the case of dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who has been refused a six-month visa by the British government but has been granted entry outside the rules for just 20 days compared to the normal 6 months granted to most visitors.

Mr Ai Weiwei has bestowed memorable works such as the Sunflower Seeds installation at Tate Modern. Born to a dissident family he spent part of his childhood in a labour camp before living in the United States for around 10 years until returning to China. He was arrested and detained in 2011 as he attempted to leave China and was referred by the state media as “a deviant”. He was then later accused of tax evasion and was placed under house arrest but eventually released after three months. He received a fine but has never been to trial or received as criminal conviction.

The Beijing Entry Clearance Manager refused to grant a visit visa on the basis that Ai Weiwei failed to declare a conviction that is said to be “a matter of public record”, however, the nature of the conviction referred to have not been disclosed.

The rules on visit visas are now set out in Appendix V of the Immigration Rules. There are various grounds for refusal of visas on “suitability” grounds in Appendix V, including:

 “… An applicant will be refused where:

(a) false representations have been made or false documents or information have been submitted (whether or not material to the application, and whether or not to the applicant”s knowledge); or

(b) material facts have not been disclosed, in relation to their application or in order to obtain documents from the Secretary of State or a third party provided in support of their application…”

The visa application form itself stipulates:

“… I have never had any of the following: a criminal conviction, spent or unspent, a driving offence, a caution, warning, reprimand or fixed penalty notice…”

The letter issued by the Home Office specifically refers to a conviction and the key point is Mr Weiwei has no recorded criminal convictions against his name. Paragraph 3.6 of Appendix V states a visit visa application will be refused where:

(a)  false representations have been made or false documents or information have been submitted (whether or not material to the application, and whether or not to the applicant”s knowledge); or

(b)  material facts have not been disclosed

Paragraph 3.10 of Appendix V imposes a ten year ban from entry to the UK where an applicant “used deception in an application for entry clearance” Failure to declare previous convictions is normally considered to be deception.  Mr Weiwei was refused a 6 month visit visa but was allowed to enter outside the rules for a period of 20 days.

Mr Weiwei visit visa has been refused, presumably on the grounds of deception. However, given that the visa was refused it would normally follow under the rules that Mr Weiwei would be banned from entry for a period of ten years. The letter he has received is silent on that, but instead he has been granted entry outside the rules.

However, in a further twist of events by the Home Office British Home Secretary Theresa May has intervened to reverse the previous decision and grant dissident Chinese artist and free speech advocate Ai Weiwei a full six-month visitor visa to enter the UK. According to a Home Office (interior ministry) spokeswoman “…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…”

Should you have any queries regarding visitor visas or immigration changes, please contact us.

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