Asian Games: China issues stapled visas to three athletes from Arunachal Pradesh, Indian government protests

New Delhi on Friday strongly protested China’s decision to issue stapled visas to some Indian athletes for the Asian Games, a day before the start of the competition in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.

Indian government protests after China issues stapled visas to three athletes from Arunachal Pradesh for participation in Asian Games.Photo Courtesy: MEA Twitter

Three athletes from Arunachal Pradesh, competing as Wushu fighters, were issued stapled visas instead of stamped ones, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

India does not accept stapled visas as valid.

The three female Wushu players from Arunachal Pradesh – Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu – have been denied accreditation, which also works as a visa, for the Asian Games.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in New Delhi that as a mark of India’s protest against Chinese action, Minister of Information & Broadcasting and Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Singh Thakur has cancelled his scheduled visit to China for the Games.

“Government of India has learnt that the Chinese authorities have, in a targeted and pre-meditated manner, discriminated against some of the Indian sportspersons from the state of Arunachal Pradesh by denying them accreditation and entry to the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China,” Bagchi said.

He said, “A strong protest has been lodged against China’s deliberate and selective obstruction of some of our sportspersons. 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.”

“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,” the spokesperson said.

Union Earth Sciences Minister Kiren Rijiju, who is an MP from Arunachal Pradesh, condemned the Chinese action.

“I strongly condemn this act by China to deny visas to our Wushu Athletes from Arunachal Pradesh who were to participate in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou. This violates both the spirit of Sports & also the Rules governing the conduct of Asian Games, which explicitly prohibits discrimination against competitors from member states,” Rijiju wrote on social media.

“Arunachal Pradesh is not a disputed territory but inalienable part of India. Entire people of Arunachal Pradesh resolutely oppose any illegal claim of China on it's land and people. International Olympic Committee should reign in China’s illegitimate action,” he said.

According to Arunachal Olympic Association (AOA) Secretary General Bamang Tago, the problem started when the players were asked to download their travel documents from a Chinese website, which he said acts like a visa.

“They (players) have to punch in their accreditation number provided by the hosts. While Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu could not download their documents, Nyeman Wangsu was successful in downloading her documents. However she was not allowed to board her plane,” Tagu said.

Disappointed with the turn of events, Tago sees the move as a deliberate attempt by the Chinese counterpart to not allow players from Arunachal participate in the Asian Games.

He said that the State Sports Authority had anticipated this problem and had been on alert mode.

In this regard, the AOA Secretary General wrote to the President, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Thursday seeking intervention into the matter.

“I am writing to you to bring to your immediate attention a matter of great concern concerning the upcoming Asian Games scheduled to take place in Hangzhou, China, from 24 September to 4 October 2023. It has recently come to my notice that there may be instances of discrimination against Indian sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh, specifically three female Wushu athletes: Nyeman Wangsu, Onila Tega, and Mepung Lamgu,” reads the letter.

Tago said, "This incident is reminiscent of past instances where athletes from Arunachal Pradesh have faced discrimination. In January 2011, weightlifter Yukar Sibi and team manager Abraham K Techi were prevented from boarding a flight to Beijing due to stapled visas issued by the Chinese Embassy."

In 2011, the Chinese Embassy issued stapled visas to three Karate players and two officials from Arunachal Pradesh, who were similarly prevented from travelling.

In 2013, archers Maselo Mihu and Sorang Vumi were stopped from participating in the Youth World Archery Championship due to the same issue.

In 2016, Bamang Tago, set to lead an Indian badminton contingent, was denied a visa by the Chinese government for the China Super Series Premier badminton tournament, citing Arunachal Pradesh domiciles.

In July this year too, the three women Wushu players Nyeman Wangsu, Onila Tega and Mepung Lamgu were issued stapled visas, resulting in the postponement of the departure of the 12-member Indian team for the World University Games in Chengdu, China.