Global Times special correspondent in India: Yuan Jirong
The news of Chinese veteran Wang Qi trapped in India 54 years has been continuously attracting attention in the past few days. From February 4 to 5, this Global Times reporter has visited Wang Qi twice at his home in Tirodi village of Madhya Pradesh along with the Chinese Embassy Working Group in India, to understand his situation and opinion. 78-year-old Wang Qi said to Global Times about the course of his straying into the Indian territory and getting arrested, imprisonment and banishment, marriage and having a family, and his application to return to China being rejected. His situation has aroused the attention of Chinese and Indian foreign ministries. In recent years, the Chinese Embassy in India has been in contact with the elderly Wang Qi, making unremitting efforts in smoothing his return to China to visit his relatives, which included communicating with the Indian side to timely process his exit and entry formalities, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang on February 6. The Chinese Embassy in India issued a 10-year Chinese passport to him in 2013 and has been providing him with a certain amount of living allowances per annum since then. We believe that with the joint efforts of China and India and following the wishes of Mr. Wang, this case will come to a satisfactory ending.
Strayed erroneously into Indian territory and imprisoned for seven years
According to Wang Qi narrative, he was an engineer in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army stationed near the Sino-Indian border, managing machinery and equipment. During the New Year’s Day holiday in 1963, he applied for leave and left the camp for a stroll. But he accidently strayed into the nearby forest and lost his way, and could not find his way back to the camp even after two days of searching. Wang Qi became very scared as the nearby forest was infested with predatory animals, so he sought for help when he encountered an Indian Red Cross vehicle. At that time Wang Qi thought that the Sino-Indian war was over, China had released a large number of Indian prisoners of war, so India will also send him back to China. Unexpectedly, the Indian Red Cross handed him over to an Indian army camp. During the journey Wang Qi’s vehicle passed by a Red Cross camp, and saw the sign of the Chinese Red Cross, when he just thought of calling out, his mouth was covered by the Indians.
The 1968 prison documents by the Punjab Home Ministry shown by Wang Qi to Global Times reveal that he was arrested for “illegally entering the Indian territory and threatening India’s national security”. Indians sent Wang Qi to a prison in the capital New Delhi, tortured and interrogated him, treating him as a spy. Because Wang Qi was an engineer, they could not dig out any information; later the Indian government sent him to a prison in the Indian state of Punjab. Several custody and release of documents by the Punjab Home Ministry provided by Wang Qi to Global Times reveals the time of his detention.
Banishment to a desolate land, marriage and having children
During his detention in Punjab, Wang Qi had a good relationship with the prison staff. After the end of his prison term in 1969, the Indian government asked Wang Qi what to do next, and he replied he wanted to return to his country. The Indian government told him he would be sent back to his country a few days later. But in fact, Wang Qi was sent to Tirodi, a village in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. During the interview, the Global Times reporter has found that Tirodi village is located near an iron mine, the Indian government dissidents, Chinese soldiers, returnees from countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh are all resettled here. At that time, Tirodi village was a place of exile for various types of people, surrounded by lakes and forests, all the roads going out of the village were sealed, and all around it was surrounded by a desolate wilderness. Even today, Tirodi village has a population of just over 10,000 people.
After waiting in Tirodi village for a few months, Wang Qi felt something was wrong, so he went to the police station and asked why he was not being sent back. The police clearly told him that neither he would be able to return home, nor would he be given an identity. It was only then he understood that he was banished to this place, letting him fend for himself. With no alternative, Wang Qi started working in a mill in the village for a living. With the money he saved around 1970, he built a house, and opened a shop to do a small business.
In 1975, Wang Qi married a local girl under the pressure from the businessmen. Wang Qi wanted to marry another girl whom he liked, but the locals did not allow. Both the parents of the girl whom Wang Qi married had expired, she only had one brother. In 1978, Wang Qi fathered his eldest daughter. Then he had his eldest son, second son and younger daughter. The eldest son was ill right from childhood, and died at the age of 28. Second son is now working in the mines nearby. Elder daughter is a toll collector in the village, and the second daughter is an accountant.
Eager to return to his country, doesn’t matter even if he can’t return to India
According to Wang Qi’s account, sometimes he cried in the nights till his pillow was soaked in tears as he longed for his family. The local people are very sympathetic to Wang Qi, and were also very good to him. But the police often made things difficult for him. Because he didn’t bribe them when opening his shop, the police broke one of his legs. Global Times reporter saw the scars on his leg. Because Wang Qi had a good relationship with a local retired senior official, the local police chief was transferred with the intervention of this official. Only then his situation has improved.
Wang Qi lived in the house built by him for 18 years, which was worn down by years of non-repair; then he moved to a house provide by a friend: a house built with iron sheets with two rooms and a small courtyard measuring a dozen square meters or so. Global Times reporter has seen that although the family was poor, they were joyous and harmonious. Now Wang Qi gets up every day at early morning 5 o’clock and exercises for 40 minutes, persisting in it every day. In his own words, he must adhere to exercise, train his body and wait to return to his country.
Talking about why he was eager to return back to his country, Wang Qi said that the most important reason was that his time is limited, want to give an account to his family and let his family go back to China, so that the Chinese side of the family also know that there is a blood line in India and make a connection between both the sides. Wang Qi in his appeal to the embassy also mentioned that it does not matter even if he is not allowed to return to India. All he wanted is to return back to China.
Wang Qi’s wife Sushila told Global Times reporter that her fate and Wang Qi’s were the same. “He has parents but cannot meet, I want to see my parents but there is no way.” Both Sushila’s father and mother have expired. Originally she was not willing to marry Wang Qi, and in the first few months it was difficult to adapt to Wang Qi’s language and customs. Later, slowly she got used to it, and only then she knew that he was a Chinese soldier. As a wife, Susila said she would follow him forever wherever he goes. His son Vishnu told Global Times that his family would also like to go to China with his father.
Both the sides try to help the elderly to fulfill his desire
India’s Ministry of External Affairs said on February 4 that India was in the process of identifying details of the case involving the Chinese soldier and studying how to better deal with the matter.
On February 4, Yan Xiaoce, Counselor at the Chinese Embassy Consulate led a working group to Wang Qi’s house to express their sympathy and solicitude for him. They handed over him some money and goods. “It is not easy to stay in a foreign land and undergo many hardships for these many years, On behalf of the Chinese government and the Chinese embassy, I would like to pay tribute and express sympathy to you,” said Ambassador Luo Zhaohui while talking to Wang Qi over phone. “The Chinese government is for the people, and their heart is with every overseas Chinese citizen. We understood what is in your mind now, and will keep in touch with you. We are also stepping up close correspondence with the Indian government, and the relevant departments within China. I believe that your desire to return to China to visit your loved ones can certainly be fulfilled.”
Wang Qi expressed his thanks to Ambassador Luo for his sympathy and solicitude, and thanked the motherland and the Chinese embassy for sending someone to visit him. He has already made it clear to the Indian government that he hopes to return back to China, the sooner the better.
Wang Qi also revealed during an interview with the media that there was another Chinese veteran named Liu Shurong in same village who hails from Jiangjin in Chongqing. On February 5 Chinese embassy working group also went to Liu Shurong’s home to extend their sympathy and solicitude. Mr. Liu has two sons and two daughters, his family condition looks good, but he said he would not return to China, and is willing to spend the rest of his life in India. ▲