Beijing: China on Monday defended its visa curbs which have prevented thousands of stranded Indians from returning to Beijing, saying they are “scientific, professional and appropriate" to control the spread of COVID-19 and do not target India alone, but are applied to even Chinese citizens coming back from overseas.
Responding to questions on Indian ambassador to Beijing Vikram Misri's criticism of China's prolonged stringent travel restrictions, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also ruled out the easing of the curbs in the near future.
Misri, in his address to the Track-II Dialogue on China-India Relations last week, expressed “disappointment” over China's reluctance to permit the return of thousands of stranded Indian students, employees and their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He described China's restrictions as an "unscientific approach" to a purely humanitarian issue.
Asked for her reaction, Hua told a media briefing here that the measures were taken for the safety and wellbeing of the people. “China's prevention and control measures are scientific, professional and appropriate. I want to stress that China applies quarantine measures equally to all inbound travellers, including its own citizens,” Hua said.
According to reports, a large number of Chinese nationals stranded in India were not able to return due to stringent travel restrictions and suspension of flights.
“On the visa issue that you care about, the prevention and control measures that China has to adopt amid COVID-19 are not targeting India, but applied to everyone,” including Chinese citizens, she said.
Besides over 23,000 Indian students studying in Chinese colleges, mostly medicine, hundreds of businessmen, employees, and their families have been stuck in India since last year.
The curbs also resulted in several people either losing jobs, businesses, or separation of families.
“With effective prevention and control measures in place, China is willing to work with all countries, India included, to make proper arrangement for the exchanges of personnel in the context of COVID-19”, she said, but hastened to add it may not be immediately.
“China's prevention and control measures are scientific, professional and appropriate. We will make timely adjustments and proper arrangements in light of the changing situation and needs”, she said.
Hua also said China is adopting the COVID-19 protocols in a scientific manner.
She said since the start of COVID-19, China has been following science-based prevention and control measures in accordance with law and “has done its utmost to protect people's health and safety, and safeguard their life and production”.
“Given the ongoing spread of the coronavirus across the globe, the Chinese government has to adopt a series of management measures, which is timely adjusted in accordance with the evolving situation, in order to ensure the safe, healthy and orderly flow of Chinese and foreign travellers,” she said.
In his address Ambassador Misri had said, “Far less complex issues, which have a purely humanitarian context and are not connected to bilateral diplomatic stances, such as facilitating the movement of students, businesspersons and stranded family members from India to China for over a year and a half now, await a more balanced and sensitive approach."
"I might add here that India has also attempted to keep our trade and commercial relationship insulated from current differences, for instance by continuing to issue visas to Chinese businesspersons to visit India.
“However, we are disappointed to see an unscientific approach with regard to several problems currently being faced by Indian students, businessmen, marine crew and exporters, to name a few," the ambassador said.
Meanwhile, according to the Indian embassy in Beijing, several students on Monday demonstrated in front of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi protesting against the visa curbs which effectively prevented them from returning to re-join their studies in the country. PTI