Germany-based Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa expressed disappointment on Monday at India’s decision to withdraw a visa granted to him to attend a meet in Dharamsala, blaming China for blocking him from travelling to other countries.
After China protested against the grant of the Indian visa to Dolkun and pointed out that there was an Interpol red corner notice for him, official sources said on Monday that the travel document had been cancelled.
“I remain disappointed with the final decision, but I am hopeful that positive steps may be taken to maintain India’s relationship with the Uyghur community,” Isa said in a statement emailed to Hindustan Times.
Dolkun, who was granted asylum by Germany in the late 1990s, said China has always attempted to prevent him from travelling to other countries.
“This is not the first time that I have faced difficulties in my international travels to advocates (sic) Uyghur rights. In September 2009, I was detained briefly and denied entry to South Korea while travelling to attend the World Forum for Democratisation in Asia, to which I was an invited guest,” he said.
“China also has regularly attempted to block or interfere with my human rights work at the UN in Geneva, in particular.”
With the cancellation of the visa, India has apparently avoided a diplomatic situation with China in the run-up to President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Beijing and Guangzhou in May.
Dolkun, branded a terrorist by China and wanted on terror charges, had been granted an electronic visa to attend the Interethnic Interfaith Leadership Conference in Dharamsala at the end of this month.
Beijing had reiterated its stand that he is a “terrorist” wanted by the Interpol. “Dolkun Isa is a terrorist on red notice of Interpol and the Chinese police. Bringing him to justice is a due obligation of relevant countries,” China’s foreign ministry had said.
Dolkun, who is a leader of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), belongs to Xinjiang in China’s remote northwest. The region has seen rioting and frequent violence between the local Uyghur population and government forces.
Exiled Uyghur activists say the violence is a result of Beijing’s hardline policies and a reaction against the government’s efforts to subsume the unique local culture.
Dolkun acknowledged that his visa could have been cancelled because of the “controversy” generated by media reports about his planned visit to Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
“The Indian (government) had granted me a tourist e-visa, but it was cancelled after my visit was widely reported in the Indian press. Following numerous reports, Indian authorities then proceeded to rescind the visa on April 23, 2016,” he said.
“I recognize and understand the difficult position that the Indian government found itself, and regret that my trip has generated such unwarranted controversy.”
Dolkun took exception to the comparison in media reports between him and Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar. The granting of the visa to Dolkun had been interpreted by some as India’s retaliation against Beijing blocking New Delhi’s move at the UN to ban Azhar.
The Uyghur leader said he is a “peace activist”. He added: “I also reject any comparison or association to China’s recent veto (of the move) by the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee (to sanction) Pakistani militant leader, Mazood Azhar. Such an unjustifiable comparison seeks only to de-legitimise my decades of impassioned work as a strictly non-violent campaigner for Uyghur rights.”
He also thanked the people of India “for their determined solidarity and commitment to rights activists like myself who wish to continue to develop and support dialogue among peoples of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds”.