24th September 2023 – (Hangzhou) Three Indian martial arts athletes, Mepung Lamgu, Nyeman Wangsu, and Onilu Tega, were unable to compete at the Hangzhou Asian Games due to a politically charged visa issue, leaving them “mentally broken,” according to their teammates who spoke to Reuters on Sunday.
The trio hails from Arunachal Pradesh, a state in northeastern India that China claims as part of Tibet. Instead of stamped visas, the athletes were issued stapled China visas, which India does not recognize as valid for travel. Anjul Namdeo, 31, expressed his sadness, saying, “I trained in the camps with them, but it feels so sad because they also tried very hard to get in this position.” Namdeo finished sixth in the men’s Changquan final.
The news devastated Suraj Singh Mayanglambam, a 24-year-old athlete from Manipur, a state near Arunachal Pradesh but not bordering China. Mayanglambam, visibly distraught after finishing fifth in the men’s Changquan, shared his frustration, stating, “I feel very bad because we are training together, enjoying together all of our events, all of us. The matter is so upsetting. They have been preparing every day for months. Now all injury, time, energy, all a waste… They’re at home now preparing for the world championship but feel very upset because of this, mentally breakdown on this.”
Although one of the athletes, Lamgu, confirmed her safety in India through a social media post, concerns were raised after reports in Indian media suggested she had gone missing. However, Lamgu remained on the start list for her event, as seen by journalists at the competition venue in the remote southeast outskirts of Hangzhou.
The visa issue has drawn attention from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and Asian Games organizers, who are currently investigating the matter. Wei Jizhong, chairman of the OCA’s ethics committee, previously stated that China did not refuse entry to the athletes. The practice of issuing visas on loose sheets of paper has been viewed as a way for China to question India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh.