India today asked China to allow two Indian traders facing legal proceedings in this country to return home pending resolution of their case, but Beijing said they cannot leave without paying dues to local businessmen.
The issue of Deepak Raheja and Syam Sunder Agrawal, who had threatened to commit suicide if they were not sent home, was taken up by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in New Delhi.
This was the third time in the last two months that Krishna took up the traders’ issue with Yang, Indian embassy sources here told PTI.
Indian officials said they have been urging the Chinese Foreign Ministry to permit the duo to go back home as they can return whenever the court wants them.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, however, told a media briefing here today that the two should comply with the court order to pay compensation to the Chinese businessmen.
As a country under rule of law, China “protects the legitimate rights and interests of people concerned,” he said replying to a question on the traders.
“As far as we know (a) local court has tried to mediate the case and handled it according to law. Since the two Indian businessmen up to now have not honoured their compensations commitment relevant court has ordered these two not to leave.
“This order is still in effect. Hope the businessmen will truly respond to the demand of relevant Chinese businessmen so that the issue can be properly handled,” he said.
Hong was referring to a lower court’s order in Yiwu. But since early this month, the case has been taken up by a higher court in Jinhua, which reserved its order on the duo’s plea that they were only employees of a company which owed dues to the tune of over a million RMB (USD 1.58 lakh) to the local businessmen.
Raheja said that though they were earlier accused of owing 10 million RMB, the court document only says over a million RMB.
The Indian consulate in Shanghai said they had to arrange a lawyer with the great difficulty as no advocate in the city was willing to take up the duo’s case.
Besides funding their lodging, food and medical expenses for a month, the consulate sent its officials to be present in the court.
A diplomat, S Balachandran, was manhandled when he tried to seek their release in Yiwu court in January.
Indian officials here also met the Chinese Foreign Ministry officials and appealed to them to permit the two to go home as they can return any time the court wants them.
So far the consulate has spent 43600 RMB (about USD 7000) on the case and now stopped the payment saying that they have no provision to continue to pay their expenses. They want USD 128 per day for maintenance.
Meanwhile, the two are on hunger strike since yesterday, a day after they were thrown out of the hotel where they were staying due to pending bills, and sent e-mails to media threatening to commit suicide one after another in a week if they were not sent back home.
The Indian consulate today arranged to get their passports back from the hotel and send them to Yiwu to renew their visas, sources at the embassy here said.
The court has put a travel ban on them.
The Indian embassy and consulate are doing what they can do, an embassy official said. “We have arranged their train tickets for Yiwu and gave some pocket money.”
He said rules permitted Indian missions to provide financial assistance to stranded Indians only for 15 days, whereas in this case the expenses of the duo have been paid for a month.