Many times the answer was no, but then, in a surprise turnaround Beijing has apparently acceded to requests from Germany to give Chinese author and poet, Liao Yiwu, the chance to travel outside his country.
Beijing disapproves of the work of Chinese poet and writer Liao Yiwu
The famous Chinese author and poet, Liao Yiwu, has been permitted by China to travel abroad for the first time. Late on Tuesday Liao was allowed to board a plane in Beijing and has since landed in Berlin.
“I can't believe this is all happening...my thoughts are so varied that I can't express myself clearly right now," a clearly excited Liao told reporters before getting on the plane.
Chinese authorities had previously stopped the author from leaving the country 14 times.
Although Liao insists he is not a political activist, all of his books are banned by the communist government of China, which views his work as subversive.
The last time the 56-year-old writer tried to leave China, in March 2010, he was on his way to attend a literary festival in Cologne, Germany. However, officials stopped him at the airport and placed him under house arrest in his hometown of Chengdu, Sichuan.
In 1989 he incurred the wrath of the Chinese authorities when he penned an epic poem called "Massacre" which criticized his government's brutal crackdown on freedom protestors at Tiananmen Square in June of that year. As a result he was jailed for four years.
On his release from prison, Liao earned a living as a musician and doing odd jobs. He also spent time interviewing people on the fringes of Chinese society.
Liao Yiwu was invited to one of Germany's foremost literary festivals earlier this year
His first book to be published in the United States was called Corpse Walker, Real Life Stories: China From the Bottom Up. This was the beginning of a number of volumes dealing with people living at the bottom of the Chinese food chain. He has also published China's Unjust Court Cases and The Last of China's Landlords
The German government has had repeated high-level contacts with China in a bid to gain permission for Liao to travel abroad. Now, it seems that persistence has finally paid off. He is due to be an honored guest at Berlin's International Literary festival and the Harbor Front Literature Festival in Hamburg.
In Berlin, Liao was met by the director of the Berlin Literary Festival, Ulrich Schreiber who told reporters, "We are very happy that we have been successful in inviting Liao Yiwu to Germany and that the Chinese government agreed to his visit."
Author: Tony Dunham (dpa/Focus)
Editor: Rob Turner