Two of three Chinese journalists who have been denied visa extension by Indian authorities visited Tibetan settlements in Karnataka late last year but didn’t reveal their identity, government sources said.
All three journalists work for Xinhua, China’s official news agency. While Wu Qiang and Lu Tang head Xinhua’s bureaux in New Delhi and Mumbai, respectively, She Yonggang was a reporter based in Mumbai.
A senior government official said Lu and She — who came to India in January last year — visited the Tibetan settlements. “The Mumbai-based Chinese journalists visited Karnataka-based Tibetan camps late last year and didn’t reveal their true identity. Thereafter, the government decided not to renew their visa,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Established in the 1960s, five settlements house around 40,000 Tibetans in Karnataka. Two of these settlements, or camps, are in Bylakuppe and one each in Mundgod, Hunsur and Kollegal. No foreigner or foreign aid agency can visit these or any Tibetan settlement in India without a protected area permit (PAP), which is issued by the Union home ministry and can be applied online.
“The journalists had not taken the PAP for visiting the camps but their real identities were detected when they reached there,” said the official.
The official said the journalists had not been asked to leave India but their “visa has not been extended”. In the absence of an extension, the journalists have to leave India before their visa expires on July 31.
Sources had on Saturday told HT that the journalists came under the “adverse attention of security agencies” for allegedly indulging in activities beyond their journalistic brief.
Non-renewal of visas is a common practice followed by governments to expel foreign journalists. Beijing itself has followed the process several times to expel those whose writing is seen as critical to official policy.
News of their ‘expulsion’ was met with shock in China where it was widely discussed on Sina Weibo, the country’s version of Twitter.
Repeated requests for comment from the Chinese foreign ministry and Xinhua, which works directly under the jurisdiction of the Chinese cabinet, went unheeded on Sunday.
(With inputs from Sutirtho Patranobis in Beijing)