India cancels minister’s trip to Asian Games in visa row

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NEW DELHI: New Delhi cancelled on Friday (Sep 22) a trip by its sports minister to the Asian Games in Hangzhou, saying that Chinese authorities had 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 were approved to take part in the sports extravaganza by the Hangzhou Asian Games Organising Committee.

But the wushu fighters were unable to download their accreditation cards, which act as visas to enter China, the Hindustan Times reported.

The northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh is claimed almost in full by Beijing, which calls it “South Tibet”.

China had discriminated against some of the Indian athletes “in a targeted and pre-meditated manner”, India’s foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

A “strong protest” had been lodged in both New Delhi and Beijing against “China’s deliberate and selective obstruction of some of our sportspersons”, he said, and a trip by the sports minister to the event had been cancelled.

Wushu, or kung fu, is a multi-disciplinary martial art originating in China.

The rest of the 10-member Indian squad along with the coaching staff left for the Games in Hangzhou on Wednesday, according to reports.

Before the Indian foreign ministry statement, senior Olympic Council of Asia official Wei Jizhong had insisted that the trio had been issued visas and were not barred.

“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.”

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