Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Friday cancelled his upcoming visit to Hangzhou for the Asian Games as a mark of protest against China's decision to deny visas to three Indian wushu players from Arunachal Pradesh while the Olympic Council of Asia's (OCA) is actively pursuing the matter with the Chinese authorities.
The three female wushu players from Arunachal Pradesh -- Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu -- have been denied accreditation, which also works as visa, for the Asian Games that officially gets underway on Saturday.
The three players were scheduled to fly out of India on Thursday night with eight other members of the wushu contingent but were forced to stay back without proper clearance as their accreditation could not be downloaded.
Wushu is a form of martial art, believed to have originated in China.
"Union Minister for I&B and Youth Affairs & Sports @ianuragthakur cancels visit to China for the Asian Games as India strongly protests China's targeted and pre-meditated discrimination against Indian sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh by denying them accreditation and entry to the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China," a Sports Ministry statement said.
The northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh is viewed by China in its entirety as Chinese territory.
"Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, issues statement underscoring the fact that in keeping 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 statement added.
Meanwhile, the OCA's acting president Randhir Singh on Friday said they are actively pursuing the matter with the relevant Chinese authorities.
"We had a meeting yesterday with the working group as well and this has been taken up in the working group meeting. They are taking it up with the government and we are also taking it up with the government," veteran administrator Randhir said in a press conference.
"It is under discussion with us as well. This is outside of what the government to government is happening. We are from the OCA side of it. We are doing it." "This has been brought to our notice yesterday, and we are taking up this matter with the Organizing Committee and we are trying to find a solution. We will then inform you about it. We are on it now," said Vinod Tiwari, the OCA's acting director general.
Describing the Chinese action as targeting of the sportspersons in a "pre-meditated" manner, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the move violates both the spirit of the Asian Games and the rules governing their conduct as they "explicitly prohibits discrimination" against competitors from member states.
It is not the first time that an issue with regards to Arunachal Pradesh athletes has surfaced. In July, India had cancelled its wushu team's trip to Chengdu for the World University Games when China issued stapled visas to players, triggering angry reactions from the government.
However, Wei Jizhong, chairman of OCA's ethics committee, claimed the "Indian athletes have been granted the visa to enter China." "These Indian athletes have already got the visa to enter China. China didn't refuse any visa. The problem is according to Chinese govt regulations, we have the right to give them different kind of visas. We have an arrival visa, we have a paper visa, and we have a passport as visa," Jizhong said.
"Unfortunately, these athletes didn't accept this visa. I don't think this is OCA problem because China has an agreement to let all the athletes who have certified eligibility to come to compete in China. This is clear. The visa has already been granted," Jizhong added.
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," Rijiju posted on X.
"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.
"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."
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