By P.T. Bopanna*
From my personal experience, I am convinced China is a rogue nation which has absolute disregard for life and should be held responsible for the havoc caused across the world by the coronavirus which originated in that country.
My experience with China goes back to 2016 when I was denied a visa to participate in the Gourmand awards ceremony scheduled on May 28, 2016, at Yantai, the wine capital of China.
To put it simply, the Gourmand Awards is the Oscar Award of the food and drink publishing business. The Awards celebrate global cookbook and wine book publishing, and feature many world-renowned chefs every year. The Gourmand Awards were founded in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau, and its international headquarters is located in Spain.
My book ‘The Romance of Indian Coffee’ was shortlisted for the finals of the ‘Best in the World’ Gourmand International Award. The book was earlier shortlisted from the competing book entries of 64 countries. In effect, I was representing India.
I had received an e-mail from the President of the Gourmand Awards in Spain, that of the sixty four competing countries, nine countries had been shortlisted for ‘Best in the World’ under best book on coffee category.
Being a journalist, I knew that China being a totalitarian country was suspicious of entertaining journalists from unfriendly countries. That too on a visit to a port city where it would have been difficult to keep a tab on me.
Knowing the situation, I had taken the services of Thomas Cook, travel agents, who have wide experience in organising tours to China. I paid Rs 1,21,690 to Thomas Cook towards my ticket and hotel bookings.
Just a week before the departure, I was informed by Thomas Cook that my visa application had been rejected by the Chines consulate in Mumbai. I received a mail from Thomas Cook that the consulate had rejected the visa application stating they are “not happy with the documents related to award winning ceremony.”
This explanation was strange because the Gourmand World Awards are the number one event in the world for food and drinks culture, an international bridge for friendship and peace. A total of 209 countries sent participations that year. The event has the glamour and impact of the Oscars, for the food sector. It is inspired by the Olympics spirit, and organized in a similar way.
In fact the awards ceremony was being held for second time at Yantai following the success of the previous event held in 2015 at the same venue.
The previous Indian winners of the award, include Vir Sanghvi, Rocky and Mayur of ‘Highway on my plate’ fame and Pushpesh Pant the food historian and critic.
The rejection of my visa was shocking because I was elated to represent India at a major event. Though I could not make it to the awards ceremony, the silver lining was that my book was ranked first, followed by entries from the US and Brazil in the finals.
In retrospect, maybe my booking a hotel room near the Tiananmen Square raised their suspicion. Honestly, I was curious to visit the Tiananmen Square where thousands of protesters of the pro-democracy movement were shot down in 1989. And what would have further raised their suspicion was the fact that my stay near the Tiananmen Square was a few days before the Tiananmen anniversary.
Maybe the Chinese were wary of the fact that I had once worked as the Bengaluru stringer for the Associated Press, an American news agency. For the Chinese, any association with America is considered as suspicious.
To add insult to injury, Rs 57,827 refund due to me for the room I had booked at Beijing Tailong Plaza Hotel near the Tiananmen Square was denied to me. I wish to take up the matter with the Chinese Embassy for refund of the deposit I had paid to the hotel.
The Bild newspaper in Germany has already calculated that China owes Berlin around $162 billion in coronavirus damages.
Thousands of Americans have signed onto a class action lawsuit in the US state of Florida seeking compensation from the Chinese Government for COVID-19 damages.
The US President Donald Trump has warned China of consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the global tragedy amid reports of deliberate deception and insufficient action to stop the pandemic.
*P.T. Bopanna (in picture) is a Bengaluru-based journalist and author.