India skewers Beijing, cancels minister’s trip over China bar on Arunachal players
This was the second time in about two months that the same three players were barred by Chinese authorities from sports events in China
Union sports minister Anurag Thakur on Friday cancelled his visit to China over the deliberate blocking of three athletes of Arunachal Pradesh from participating in the Hangzhou Asian Games as New Delhi lodged a strong protest with Beijing on the issue.
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.
This was the second time in about two months that the same three players were barred by Chinese authorities from sports events 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, the 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 had discriminated against 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 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 reserved 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.
When Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was asked about the matter at a media briefing, she sought to link it to Beijing’s claim on Arunachal Pradesh. “As the host country, China welcomes athletes from all countries to the games using legal identification. The Chinese government has never recognised so-called ‘Arunachal’. The area of Zangnan is Chinese territory,” she said, using the Chinese name for the Indian state.
Wei Jizhong, honorary vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), contended that Indian athletes were given visas to enter China. “I don’t think this is OCA’s problem because China honoured its agreement to let all athletes who satisfy the eligibility [norms] to come and compete in China,” he said.
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. The state was depicted within China’s borders in a “standard map” released by Beijing in August. The map was rejected by India and several other countries.
“In line with our long-standing and consistent position, India firmly rejects differential treatment of Indian citizens based on domicile or ethnicity. Arunachal Pradesh was, is and will always remain an integral and inalienable part of India,” Bagchi pointed out.
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 be validated upon arrival in China.
However, the three players couldn’t download the documents. An Indian official said that after the athletes received their accreditation cards from the organising committee, it meant they had been cleared to travel for the Asian Games.
This is the second instance of the same three players being unable to travel to China for a competition. In the last week of July, the 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.