Dissident artist Ai Weiwei has said that Chinese authorities returned his passport with almost no strings attached and promised him he can return to China.
Ai travelled to Munich, Germany, last week after having his passport returned, four years after it was confiscated, for a medical check-up and to see his young son.
In an interview with the Munich-based daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the dissident artist said Chinese authorities now have a more positive attitude towards him.
“They know that I want to make China into a better country, that I am concerned about the young generation,” he was quoted as saying.
“There is a basis of trust, otherwise they would not allow me, the former enemy of the state, my exhibitions; otherwise they would not have returned my passport.”
Asked under what conditions his passport was returned, he replied that “there were almost none”, without elaborating. “They promised that I could come back, which was very important to me. They said, ’you are a free person’.”
Ai said that an anti-corruption campaign by President Xi Jinping is creating “enormous tension”, with authorities keen not to lose control and intervening at the smallest sign of unrest, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported. But he added that “this campaign was really necessary”.
Ai also said that he has to be cautious and work with the situation – “that is much more difficult than vilifying opponents”.
He also said that he wants “not just to criticise but to offer solutions”. He did not detail his future plans.
Last week the UK Home Office apologised to Ai after initially refusing him a visa to travel to London for a landmark exhibition of his work. He was later issued a full six-month visa.