Wang Qi worked as a Chinese army surveyor during the Sino-Indian war in 1963 when he mistakenly ventured into India. More than 50 years later, he is still unable to leave.
In an interview with the BBC, Qi explained that he was “tasked with building roads for the Chinese army” and was captured after accidentally straying into India, where he was picked up by the Red Cross and turned over to Indian authorities.
Qi, also known by his Indian name Raj Bahadur, spent seven years in different jails before a court released him in 1969.
Now in his eighties, he resides in Tirodi village in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh with his family.
During the BBC interview, he was able to speak to his older brother Wang Zhiyuan, 82, in China for the first time in 54 years via video call after going to a government office with internet connection.
The two spoke to each other in Mandarin and the call lasted for 17 minutes.
“I couldn’t recognize him. He looked so old. He said he was alive just for me,” said Qi.
It’s still unclear whether he is a war prisoner, but Qi has been denied official documents or Indian citizenship by the government.
He has also been denied permission to return to China to see his three brothers and two sisters back in Xianyang, a city in Shaanxi province.
Qi secured a passport in 2013, but he is still waiting for a response to questions sent to India’s federal home ministry.
“I have heard a lot about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj helping foreign nationals, stuck in India, return to their homeland,” Qi told the Hindustan Times in October. “I pray with folded hands to the two leaders to help me also return to my siblings in China.”
He added with tears in his eyes: “I was the most loved child of my mother, who passed away in 2006. Three years later one of my nephews Wang Yin Chun met me in New Delhi with the help of an interpreter. The meeting kindled hopes of seeing my kin in China again. Since 2014, I am trying to get permission to travel to China. But now it seems a pipedream.”