Representatives from the Chinese government, and many from China’s private sector, were a no-show at the 70th International Astronautical Congress 2019 (IAC 2019), currently being held in Washington DC. The reason for this, as stated by China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying two days ago, is that “the US side did not issue them visas in time”.
Delegates who failed to obtain visas include Wu Yanhua, Vice Administrator of China’s space agency CNSA, who was scheduled to participate in the annual Heads of Agencies plenary session. When questioned about his absence during the panel, Pascale Ehrenfreund, incoming President of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), attributed it to timing conflicts.
According to Hua, other delegates denied a US Visa included IAF Vice President Yang Baohua, an IAF electoral committee member, and the Secretary-General of the Chinese Society of Astronautics. Chinese news site Xinhua.net also reported that many private companies saw its members, particularly those with technical backgrounds, unable to obtain visas in spite of registering for exhibition booths at the event.
Said Hua, “You may know that US Vice President Mike Pence delivered remarks at the opening ceremony. Interestingly, instead of announcing anything new in US space policy or international cooperation, he declared US-led international space cooperation with ‘like-minded, freedom-loving nations. His remarks with strong political implication found a repulsed audience who see this as something against the IAF purpose that calls for international cooperation.”
She added, “Such obstruction in normal people-to-people and cultural exchange between China and the US infringes upon Chinese personnel’s security and lawful rights and interests….The US is weaponizing visa in defiance of its international responsibilities and obligations. Its obstruction of normal exchange and cooperation has harmed the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of relevant parties of the international community.”