Fifty-four years after he accidentally wandered across the eastern frontier into India following the 1962 war with China, a Chinese soldier has returned home to Xi’an to a hero’s welcome.
“I’m finally home!” Wang Qi (77) sobbed as he arrived at Xi’an’s airport in an emotional reunion carried on state television in China.
“Today is my happiest day in 54 years. Finally I have come back to this beautiful lovely country. Words cannot express how I feel now,” he said as he hugged his tearful brothers and sisters.
He was accompanied by his son, Vishnu Wang (35), daughter-in-law Neha and grand-daughter, Khanak Wang. His Indian wife Shushila, however, stayed behind in India as she was ill.
Mr Wang had been a surveyor with the Chinese military following the brief war with India in 1962 and had been building roads for the Chinese army when he strayed into Indian territory at Assam.
“I had gone out of my camp for a stroll but lost my way. I was tired and hungry. I saw an Indian Red Cross vehicle and asked them to help me. They handed me over to the Indian army,” he said.
Mr Wang was moved around between various jails for seven years after he was jailed for espionage, before his release in 1969.
He ended up in a remote village in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where he married and worked in a flour mill, living in poverty and sending many letters to his family in Shaanxi province expressing his desire to come home.
Mr Wang began the process of applying for the necessary documents to leave India in 1977, but he only received a passport in 2013. He was never granted Indian citizenship.
It was a report by the BBC that highlighted his plight on Chinese social media and expedited efforts to get him a passport.
Arriving in his home city of Xianyang, he was met by crowds carrying banners. The reunion took place on the same day as China’s Lantern Festival, a day that traditionally represents reunion.
“After all these years, he is finally back,” Wang Shun, who had prepared a quilt for Mr Wang, told the Xinhua news agency. “We bought the furniture in this room many years ago.”
A local villager Wang Ming said Mr Wang had not changed much.
“I can still recognise him . . . All of us in the village have been waiting for his return, and we are just happy that he made it.”