Over the weekend, a Chinese army veteran who spent the last 54 years of his life trapped in India finally returned to China for a long-awaited family reunion.
Over 60 relatives across four generations were on hand when 77-year-old Wang Qi arrived at Xi’an Xianyang International Airport at around 6 p.m. on Saturday. “I’m finally home!” CCTV cameras captured Wang saying as he hugged his sobbing brothers and sisters inside the airport’s arrival hall.
Since touching down in China, Wang’s every move has been closely followed by Chinese state media as his homecoming became the biggest news story of the weekend in China. For Wang, the media attention is long overdue.
In 1963, just after the conclusion of the Sino-Indian war, Wang, a Chinese army surveyor, got lost, crossed over the Indian border, and was captured by Indian authorities. He then spent the next seven years moving between a number of jails. When he was finally released, police escorted him to a remote village in central India and told him to start a life there.
While Wang has made the best of his unexpected predicament, marrying a local girl and starting a family, he has long wished to travel home to see his family in China; however, he had curiously been denied official Indian documents and citizenship time and again.
A decade ago, he tried to obtain permission to go home to visit his elderly mother, but to no avail. She died in 2006 without seeing her “favorite son” again.
On Monday, Wang is scheduled to finally return to his remote home village of Xuezhai in rural Shaanxi province and visit his mother’s tomb to pay his respects. At Wang’s brother’s house, villagers have been preparing for his homecoming, chopping up bowls of his favorite homemade noodles.
The reason why it took so long for Wang to return to China is not yet clear. But, after spending years trying to get government permission to visit his homeland, Wang can likely thank the BBC for the sudden breakthrough in his case. The news organization ran a story last month on Wang’s plight, drawing international attention to the subject and setting the wheels of bureaucracy in motion.
Back in 2013, China issued a passport to Wang, and he has now been granted a one-year visa by India. Meanwhile, Wang’s family members in India have been granted unusually long two-year visas to visit China, a sign of the importance that the Chinese government is attaching to this case, India Today reports.
While Wang’s wife and daughter did not make the trip to China with him, he was accompanied by his son, daughter-in-law and grandson.
Now, the question becomes will Wang return back to his home in India where he has a wife, children and grandchildren, or will he instead settle back down in China? Chinese authorities would obviously prefer the latter option with village officials saying they have already set aside land and a home for Wang. Considering his public profile, it’s likely that Wang will be well provided for in his golden years.
However, it doesn’t appear as though Wang has yet made his decision yet. During his interview with the BBC last month, Wang indicated that after visiting China, he wanted to return to live in India. “My family is here. Where would I go?” he said.
But, one acquaintance told India Today that in fact Wang is thought to be keen “on spending the last years of life in China.”
“This is a decision the family has to sit together and decide, whether my father and us stay or go back, and when we go back,” Wang’s son said after their arrival in Xi’an.
[Images via NetEase / NetEase]
Follow Shanghaiist on WeChat