China has changed quite a bit in 54 years. In between, there was the Cultural Revolution, the economic revolution and a revolution in how people communicate.
For Chinese Peoples Liberation Army surveyor Wang Qi, the five decades also meant the inevitable greying of years and hair. Maybe memories too.
He was 23 when he strayed across the inhospitable and mostly disputed border between India and China, two countries that had once gone to war over it.
On Saturday, at 77, Wang returned home. Along with family: Vishnu Wang, daughter Anita Wankhede, daughter-in-law Neha Wang and grandson Khanak Wang.
Online China erupted over Wang’s return.
“Left home young and return old, the accent has not been changed but the hair has been gray. Welcome the veteran back home, and welcome him to watch the Yellow river and have a bowl of noodles,” said one user.
India got both bricks and bouquet.
“He is a surveying and mapping soldier. It’s humanitarian for Indian that do not kill him at once. It’s also reasonable that do not allow him to come back. Now after decades, they finally let him back,” said one user.
“In 1963, Wang, a Chinese army surveyor, got lost, crossed the border and was captured by Indian authorities. He was moved from one jail to another for nearly seven years when he was finally released in 1969, police escorted him to the remote village of Tirodi in Madhya Pradesh and told him to start a life there. He married a local woman, and they had three children and grandchildren,” state-run China Daily said in a widely followed report.
Last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Lu Kang subtly indicated that Indian diplomacy and bureaucracy held up Wang’s return.
“In recent years, Chinese embassy to India had kept in close touch with Wang Qi and made relentless effort to help him return to China including pushing Indian side on exit and entry procedures for him,” Lu said.
“In 2013, the Embassy issued a 10-year Chinese passport to him and provided living allowance for him every year since then. I believe that with the joint efforts of China and India, and respecting the will of Wang Qi himself, the case will be properly solved,” he said.
The China Daily report said that on February 4, Luo Zhaohui, China’s ambassador to India, spoke by telephone with Wang and expressed sympathy over his suffering over the years.
“Yan Xiaoce, a counselor at the Chinese embassy in India, visited Wang’s village on the same day,” the report said.
“Liu Shurong, another Chinese veteran, underwent the same plight as Wang and lives in the same village. But Liu said he had no intention to return to China because he no longer has family there”, the embassy told China Daily.
Wang is eager to taste noodles, a local specialty in Shaanxi, after arriving home. Yes, the bowl of noodles is warm and waiting.