Asian Games: India lodges protest after China bars players from Arunachal Pradesh

Sep 22, 2023 03:36 PM IST

Three women wushu players from Arunachal Pradesh couldn’t travel to Hangzhou for the Asian Games as they were unable to download travel documents from an official Chinese website

NEW DELHI: India on Friday lodged a strong protest with Beijing over the “deliberate and selective” blocking of three athletes from Arunachal Pradesh from participating in the Asian Games at Hangzhou even as the sports minister Anurag Thakur cancelled his scheduled visit to China over the development.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with China's President Xi Jinping. (Reuters File Photo)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with China's President Xi Jinping. (Reuters File Photo)

Three women wushu players from Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China, couldn’t travel to Hangzhou as they were unable to download travel documents from an official Chinese website. The rest of the wushu squad – comprising a total of 10 players – faced no such issues and boarded a flight on Wednesday for Hong Kong, from where they had a connecting flight to Hangzhou.

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This was the second time in about two months that the same three players were barred by Chinese authorities from a sports event in China.

“A strong protest has been lodged in New Delhi and Beijing against China’s deliberate and selective obstruction of some of our sportspersons,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

“Further, as a mark of our protest against the Chinese action, minister of information and broadcasting and youth affairs and sports of India has cancelled his scheduled visit to China for the games,” he said.

Bagchi said Chinese authorities discriminated against some Indian sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh in a “targeted and pre-meditated manner” by denying them accreditation and entry to the Asian Games.

China’s action “violates both the spirit of the Asian Games and the rules governing their conduct, which explicitly prohibits discrimination against competitors from member states”, he said.

The Indian government reserves the “right to take suitable measures to safeguard our interests”, Bagchi said, without giving details.

The development comes at a time when India-China relations are at a six-decade low over the dragging military standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). India has linked the normalisation of relations to the restoration of peace and tranquillity in the border areas.

“In line with our long-standing and consistent position, India firmly rejects differential treatment of Indian citizens on the basis of domicile or ethnicity. Arunachal Pradesh was, is and will always remain an integral and inalienable part of India,” Bagchi pointed out.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as “south Tibet” and recently announced a list of its own names for locations and geographic features in the strategic border state. Arunachal Pradesh was also depicted within China’s borders in a “standard map” released recently by Beijing. The map was rejected by India and several other countries.

The three wushu players – Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu – received their accreditation cards, which also act as an entry visa from the Hangzhou Asian Games Organising Committee (HAGOC). The athletes were required to download their travel documents, which would to be validated upon arrival in China.

However, the three players could not download their travel documents.

“Once the athletes received the accreditation cards from the organising committee, it meant that they have been cleared to travel for the Asian Games. But surprisingly, only these three players could not download their documents and they could not board the flight,” said an Indian official.

In the last week of July, the same players could not compete at the World University Games in Chengdu (July 18-Aug 8) because they were given stapled visas by China.

Stapled visas are meant to indicate that China doesn’t recognise India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh. India has consistently rejected China’s claim that the northeastern state is a disputed territory.

The eight-member Indian wushu team had then withdrawn from the event in Chengdu in protest.

The three wushu players also recently met cabinet minister Kiren Rijiju and requested him to look into the issue.

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