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China's Ai Weiwei pulls art from Danish exhibitions over asylum law

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei says he'll withdraw his works from two museums in Denmark to protest against a new immigration law. The controversial bill allows authorities to seize valuables from migrants.

Outspoken artist Ai Weiwei announced his decision via social media, saying his works would no longer feature in exhibitions at the Aros museum in Aarhus and the Faurschou Foundation in Copenhagen.

Ai, who

resides in Berlin

, told Associated Press he was "angry and surprised" to hear about the law, which demands migrants hand over valuables worth more than 10,000 kroner ($1,500; 1,380 euros) to cover their expenses while their claims are processed.

"Basically it's an insult to human dignity to have that kind of policy," he said.

The Danish Parliament on Tuesday approved the controversial proposal, which human rights organizations have described as degrading and inhumane. The legislation also extends the period family members must wait before they can join a refugee in Denmark from one year to three years.

Ai is currently working on the Greek island of Lesbos, where he has set up a studio to document the migrant crisis. Many refugees arrive on the island on their way across the Aegean to mainland Europe.

"They are shaking, they are wet and they are just trying to escape from war," Ai told Associated Press by phone. "But they don't have to be penniless. They are not beggars. This is about their dignity."

Ai's exhibits in Denmark include the installation Yu Yi, 2015, which is part of the exhibition A New Dynasty - Created in China at the Aros Aarhus Art Museum. Ai's work was also part of an exhibition titled "Ruptures" at the capital's Faurschou Foundation.

Ai said he had contacted both museums to explain his decision. Erlend Hoeyersten, the director of the Aros museum, said in a statement that while he has "great respect" for Ai’s criticism of the Danish law, "[he] also [finds] it unreasonable that an entire people is punished for the government's policies."

Ai, whose work is often critical of Chinese authorities, said he wasn't trying to punish anyone.

"As an artist this is the only thing I can do," he said. "If he feels punished that's too bad."

nm/jr (AP, dpa)

If you're interested in Ai Weiwei's art, you can take a look at some of his international exhibits in this picture gallery from October 2015.

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