A senior Olympic Council of Asia official said on Friday, Sept. 22, three Indian martial arts athletes from a region claimed by China had been issued visas for the Hangzhou Asian Games, denying they were barred.
OCA denies three Indian athletes barred from Asian Games
At a glance
HANGZHOU (AFP) -- A senior Olympic Council of Asia official said on Friday, Sept. 22, three Indian martial arts athletes from a region claimed by China had been issued visas for the Hangzhou Asian Games, denying they were barred.
The women wushu fighters are from the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed almost in full by Beijing as "South Tibet".
The Hindustan Times newspaper said the trio were approved to take part by the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee, but were unable to download their accreditation cards -- which act as visas to enter China.
"These India athletes already got a visa to enter China. China didn't refuse any visa," OCA honorary life vice president Wei Jizhong, who is from China, told a press briefing in Hangzhou.
Asked about the trio at a regular foreign ministry briefing in Beijing, spokeswoman Mao Ning said: "China welcomes athletes from all countries with legal documents to come to Hangzhou and take part in the Asian Games.
"The Chinese government does not recognize the so-called Arunachal region that you mentioned. South Tibet is part of China."
The Indian wushu team did not travel to the Chinese city of Chengdu for the World University Games in July after the same three athletes were issued stapled, rather than pasted, visas -- an indication that Beijing does not recognize India's territorial claim over Arunachal Pradesh.
The move on that occasion triggered angry reactions from the Indian side, with the foreign ministry in New Delhi saying it was "unacceptable".
"The problem is, according to Chinese government regulations, we have the right to give them different kinds of visa. We have arrival visa, we have a paper visa... these are government regulations," said Wei.
"But I make it very clear: the Chinese government gave them a visa, they can enter China. But unfortunately these athletes didn't accept the visa."
Wushu, or kung fu, is a multi-disciplinary martial art originating in China.
The rest of the 10-member India wushu squad, along with coaching staff, reportedly left for the Games on Wednesday.
Arunachal Pradesh is on the other side of the Himalayas from Tibet and shares a common Buddhist cultural heritage with its northern neighbor.
The Dalai Lama fled through the state in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in his homeland and has lived in India ever since.
Beijing briefly occupied most of the territory in a bloody conflict three years after the Buddhist leader's flight.
Earlier this year, India reacted strongly after China renamed 11 places in the disputed region.
New Delhi consistently maintains that the state has always been, and will always be, an "integral and inalienable part of India."