Covid-19: Stranded Indians petition for return to China

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Many have travelled to countries like Nepal, UAE, and Maldives where Chinese vaccines are available to get the jabs. A few also went to Malaysia.

Employees wearing masks work at an automotive company plant in Beijing, China.
Employees wearing masks work at an automotive company plant in Beijing, China.

More than 250 Indians who live and work in China but are currently in their home country have petitioned the Chinese government to allow them to return after taking Chinese vaccines from a third country.

In March, Chinese missions in many countries including in India said they will facilitate issuing visas to foreigners who need to travel to China if they have taken a China-made Covid-19 vaccine.

The rule, however, did not make it easier for Indians to the visas since New Delhi hasn’t yet approved any China-made vaccine in the country.

The group of Indians, however, found a way out – they travelled to countries like Nepal, UAE, and Maldives where Chinese vaccines are available to get the jabs. A few also went to Malaysia.

Many of them took China’s Sinopharm vaccine, which was approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May.

After returning to India, the group – which calls itself Indians of China – sent representations to the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, requesting the mission to issue visas as they had complied with the vaccine criteria. They also wrote to the Indian embassy in Beijing to take up the matter with the Chinese foreign ministry.

Many among the petitioning Indians have been separated from their families for over 16 months while others are finding it tough to hold on to their jobs in China.

For many, the emotional trauma of staying separately from their families is taking a mental toll.

The Indians have pressed home the point that since they have complied with the directive to take China-made jabs, they should be allowed to return to China.

They have assured Chinese authorities of complying with all necessary pandemic-prevention rules, testing and quarantine procedures once they arrive in China.

The Indians, however, have not yet received any response from the Chinese authorities.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin on Monday said those eligible are being helped to return but did not give details. “In order to restore the normal order of cross-border travel for those foreigners, who have been vaccinated with Chinese vaccines, holding the certificates and meeting the eligibility, we are providing facilitations for their travel. But, for the details, please contact the Chinese Embassy in India,” Wang said when asked about the status of stranded Indians.

When asked whether China will recognise vaccines approved by the WHO for travelling to China, Wang said it was important to have a safe system of international travel. “Essentially, this is about cross-border travel and the order to be maintained. We have already stated our position on this issue. I’d like to reiterate that since the outbreak of the pandemic, drawing on the experience of many countries we have rolled out measures to ensure safety, while building a safe and orderly cross-border travel.”

Indian students enrolled in Chinese universities but stranded in their home country have also not been allowed to return to China because of the continuing and strict restrictions imposed on international travel related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In March, Beijing suggested that Indian students stay in contact with their universities in China and follow their instructions – in effect saying that they should continue with their online studies.

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