22nd September 2023 – (Hangzhou) The scheduled trip of India’s sports minister to the Asian Games in Hangzhou was cancelled on Friday after Chinese authorities denied accreditation and entry to Indian athletes from a region claimed by Beijing.
According to Indian media reports, three women martial arts fighters from the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh had received approval from the Hangzhou Asian Games Organising Committee to participate in the sporting event.
However, the wushu fighters encountered difficulties in downloading their accreditation cards, which serve as visas to enter China, as reported by the Hindustan Times.
Beijing claims almost the entire northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, referring to it as “South Tibet”.
India’s foreign ministry spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, stated that China had discriminated against the Indian athletes “in a targeted and pre-meditated manner.” He added that China’s actions violated both the spirit of the Asian Games and the rules governing the event, which explicitly prohibit discrimination against participants from member states.
India lodged a “strong protest” in both New Delhi and Beijing against “China’s deliberate and selective obstruction of some of our sportspersons.” Consequently, the sports minister’s trip to the event was cancelled.
Wushu, also known as kung fu, is a multi-disciplinary martial art originating in China.
The remaining members of the 10-member Indian squad, along with the coaching staff, departed for the Games in Hangzhou on Wednesday, according to reports.
Before the Indian foreign ministry’s statement, Wei Jizhong, a senior official from the Olympic Council of Asia, insisted that the trio had been issued visas and were not barred from entry.
“I make it very clear: The Chinese government gave them a visa, they can enter China,” he told reporters. “But unfortunately these athletes didn’t accept the visa.”
In response to questions about the trio during a regular foreign ministry briefing in Beijing, spokeswoman Mao Ning stated that China welcomes “athletes from all countries with legal documents” to participate in the Asian Games.
“The Chinese government does not recognize the so-called Arunachal region that you mentioned,” she added. “South Tibet is part of China.”
India’s spokesman Bagchi countered, stating that “Arunachal Pradesh was, is, and will always remain an integral and inalienable part of India.”
This incident mirrors a similar event in July when the Indian wushu team did not travel to the Chinese city of Chengdu for the World University Games. The same three athletes were issued stapled visas instead of pasted visas, indicating that Beijing does not recognize India’s territorial claim over Arunachal Pradesh.
At that time, the foreign ministry in New Delhi deemed the move “unacceptable.”
Arunachal Pradesh is located on the other side of the Himalayas from Tibet and shares a common Buddhist cultural heritage with its northern neighbour.
In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled through the state after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in his homeland, and he has resided in India ever since.
China briefly occupied most of the territory in a bloody conflict three years after the Buddhist leader’s escape.
Earlier this year, India strongly protested after China renamed 11 places in the disputed region.