After 54 years in India, war veteran returns home for a family reunion

After 54 years in India, war veteran returns home for a family reunion
PHOTO: Video screengrab

A former Chinese soldier who was unable to leave India for 54 years flew home to China over the weekend, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Wang Qi, now in his 70s, was an army engineer when he went missing in a forest on the China-India border in 1963. He was later detained by the Indian military and imprisoned for seven years on an espionage charge.

"This is the happiest day in my life," he was quoted as saying after landing at Beijing Capital International Airport on Saturday morning. "I can't find the words to describe my happiness. It's a most memorable day for me."

His arrival meant Wang was able to join his family in Xianyang, Shaanxi province, for the final day of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. He said he was most looking forward to eating the handmade noodles that are a specialty in his village.

Wang has lived in a remote village in India since he was released from prison. For decades, his efforts to leave the country were rejected by the authorities because he had no official proof of identity.

However, after diplomatic efforts, on Thursday, the Indian government granted the veteran permission to leave and re-enter the country at any time.

China Central Television reported that Wang enlisted in the People's Liberation Army in 1960 and was sent to the border with India during the Sino-Indian War. He went missing in December that year in woodland near his camp and was taken to India by an Indian Red Cross vehicle.

He said he was handed over to the Indian army and spent seven years in prison. After his release, he was sent to Tirodi, a village in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, where he started a new life. He married a local woman and had four children, according to CCTV.

Xinhua reported that other Chinese citizens may be in a similar situation in India.

"We're working with India to figure out such cases," Lu Xu, deputy director of consular affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted as saying. "We will provide assistance to those who want to visit China.

"We appreciate India's efforts to help Wang visit China and reunite with his family, which demonstrates our bilateral strategic cooperative partnership."

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