Indian community in China feels pinch as travel ban approaches two years

Several thousand Indians are waiting to return to China, but authorities continue to deny business visas and visas even to immediate family members

Several thousand Indians are waiting to return to China, but authorities continue to deny business visas and visas even to immediate family members

An effective ban by Chinese authorities on travelers from India over the past two years has put a strain on Indian businesses in China as well as families who, in some cases, have been separated for two years.

Indian community associations in China estimate that there are several thousand Indians waiting to return to China. This is in addition to the thousands of students enrolled in Chinese universities – most of them in medical schools – who have called on the Chinese government to facilitate their return.

Following discussions with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who is visiting New Delhi on March 25, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said he “takes a strong interest in the plight of Indian students studying in China who have not been allowed to return, citing COVID restrictions.”

“We hope China will take a non-discriminatory approach, because it involves the future of so many young people,” he said. “Minister Wang Yi assured me that he would talk to the relevant authorities upon his return about this. He also acknowledged the particular concerns of medical students in this difficult situation. »

Unlike the students, the companies said their cases, as well as those of families who have been separated by China’s travel bans, have not received the same attention.

More than a dozen people said The Hindu in interviews, Chinese authorities have continued for much of the past two years to deny business visas as well as visas even to immediate family members, including spouses and children, of Indian nationals who are stayed in China to run their business.

Last year, the Chinese embassy in India said it would “facilitate” travelers inoculated with Chinese vaccines, which are not available in India. This prompted dozens of businessmen and families to travel to Nepal and West Asia.

“We spent thousands of dollars traveling and staying there for a month to get two shots,” said a businessman who had organized a group. “But when we came back, we were still denied visas,” he said.

China is the only major country still closed to the rest of the world with restrictions on international travel. Under current Chinese regulations, visas are only issued for emergency humanitarian reasons to visit seriously ill relatives or to “resume exploitation and production”, including for economic and commercial purposes. .

Although the regulations apply to all countries and are not specific to India, a representative of an Indian community association said that Indian businessmen in particular face certain restrictions.

“We know of businessmen from several countries who have been allowed to return,” the representative said. “Letter is needed from local government for visa application but more than one local government told us that they would not give the letter for Indians. They said there was a clear instruction that they couldn’t do it.

A businessman involved in the footwear industry in Fujian who was unable to return said, “I have to pay the rent, my workers’ wages and I have to visit the factories. I can’t do any of this and I’m facing losses.

Another businessman who runs a business in southern Guangdong and who was back in India for a personal visit when the pandemic started in Wuhan, said he could no longer run his business of taking buyers and to source from China.

Others spoke of being separated from their families, their spouses and children in China or their family in India not being able to join them. “We can travel from China to India, but we are told that even if we have a visa, we will not be allowed to return,” said a businessman in Shanghai.

China, which is currently dealing with a surge in Omicron cases, particularly in Shanghai, said it would continue its “zero COVID” approach and there were no signs of opening up. This is expected to continue at least until November, when President Xi Jinping is likely to begin his third term following a very important party congress to be held once every five years, with the government outlining China’s “zero COVID” of the past two years. as one of Mr. Xi’s successes and as a contrast to the West’s handling of the pandemic.

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