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Ai Weiwei closes Copenhagen exhibition in protest of Danish asylum seeker law

Updated 27th January 2016
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei pictured at the Royal Academy in London in September 2015.
Credit: LEON NEAL/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Ai Weiwei closes Copenhagen exhibition in protest of Danish asylum seeker law
Written by Tim Hume, CNNCarol Jordan, CNNBrooke Bowman, CNN
Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei announced Wednesday he is closing an exhibition in Copenhagen following the Danish government's passage of a law empowering it to seize valuables from asylum seekers.
The artist made the statement regarding his exhibition at Copenhagen's Faurschou Foundation, "Ruptures," on his Instagram account.
He wrote that the decision "follows the Danish parliament's approval of the law proposal that allows seizing valuables and delaying family reunions for asylum seekers."
The statement said that Faurschou Foundation owner Jens Farschou "backs the artist's decision."
It said Faurschou "regrets that the Danish parliament chooses to be in the forefront of symbolic and inhuman politics of today's biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe and the Middle East, instead of being in the forefront of a respectful European solution to solve the acute humanitarian crisis."
The "Ruptures" exhibition opened in March last year and was scheduled to run until April. The exhibition documented the many run-ins the artist has had in recent years with the Chinese government.
Denmark passes controversial refugee bill

Controversial law

Danish lawmakers passed the new law Tuesday with a vote of 81-27 and one abstention.
The law allows the seizure from migrants of valuables worth more than 10,000 Danish kroner (about $1,453) -- exempting items of "special sentimental value" such as wedding rings or medals, but including watches and other assets.
The new law also tripled the period of time before asylum seekers can apply for separated family members to be reunited with them in Denmark, extending the period from one to three years.
Its passage was controversial in Denmark, which has traditionally been seen as a bastion of progressive and socially liberal Scandinavian values.

Designed to deter?

Denmark's ruling Liberal Party said the asset-seizing provision -- which mirrors similar laws in Switzerland and Germany -- was designed to ensure that asylum seekers contributed to the costs incurred by the welfare state in meeting their needs.
But critics and some backers of the law said it was also designed to deter migrants who have entered Europe's borders in overwhelming numbers over the past year, creating Europe's biggest migrant crisis since the Second World War.
"We hope this will start a chain reaction through Europe where other European countries can see there's the need to tighten the rules on immigration in order to keep European culture," said Martin Henriksen, spokesman for the right-wing Danish People's Party, which supports the law.
Rights group Amnesty International slammed the legislation Tuesday, saying in a statement that it reflected a "dismal race to the bottom" by European countries in response to the migrant crisis.
"To prolong the suffering of vulnerable people who have been ripped apart from their families by conflict or persecution is plain wrong," John Dalhuisen, the group's Europe and Central Asia director, said in the statement.
CNN's Tim Hume report and wrote from London, and Carol Jordan and Brooke Bowman reported from London.