Ai Weiwei has proudly announced the issue of his new Chinese passport, marking the end of a ban on foreign travel that dates back to his 81-day detention in 2011 after which the Chinese government reportedly placed him under 24-hour surveillance.
The artist slash political dissenter posted a photo on Instagram with the caption: "Today I got my passport". He’s fought to have his passport returned to him for some time, making a plea in a personal YouTube video last year for the authorities to return it, stating that they do not have a good reason for keeping it from him.
Due to the restrictions placed on his ability to travel, Ai Weiwei has missed a lot of exhibitions over the past few years, something that sparked its own art project "Ai Can’t Be Here", a movement predominantly operating on Instagram that pleaded for his freedom.
Though the Chinese government cited tax evasion as the reason for his detention, it’s more likely to be a result of him consistently speaking out against the notoriously tight Chinese communist regime. At one point during his 2011 house arrest, his studio was surrounded by 30 police cars and later that year he had a studio destroyed by the government for fear that it would become a hive for anti-authority activity.
Speaking to the Guardian, the artist expressed his delight at having his passport returned. "When I got it back I felt my heart was at peace,” he said. “I feel pleased. This was something that needed to be done. I was quite frustrated when my right to travel was taken away but now I feel much more positive about my condition. I think they should have given it back some time ago and maybe after so many years they understand me better.”