Dolkun Isa, secretary general of the World Uyghur Congress, speaks to a reporter during an interview in Tokyo on May 2, 2008
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO—AFP/Getty Images
April 25, 2016 4:15 AM EDT

India on Monday reportedly canceled a visa it had issued to a Uighur leader exiled from China and wanted by the Chinese government, days before he was scheduled to attend a conference with other anti-Beijing activists.

Dolkun Isa, a leader of the World Uyghur Congress, told Indian newspaper the Hindu that he had received an email from the Indian government saying his visa had been denied. He was scheduled to attend the Interethnic Interfaith Leadership Conference in the northern town of Dharamsala (where exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama currently resides) from April 30 to May 1.

“No explanations were given. No Indian official called me personally to convey this decision,” Isa told the Hindu from Berlin, where he is attending a conference on the rights of Uighur refugees. “It’s a very sad situation for us,” he added.

The Uighurs are a Muslim, Turkic people living mostly in China’s far-western Xinjiang autonomous region, where they number some 10 million. They have long maintained that they face political and cultural oppression since coming under Beijing’s rule in 1949.

Many on Indian social media slammed the decision and accused New Delhi of capitulating to Chinese pressure following the issuance of a visa to the dissident leader, whom Beijing regards as a terrorist. (In a statement to media, Isa described himself “as a strictly non-violent campaigner for Uighur rights.”)

Indian officials responded by telling the Hindu that the visa Isa was granted is invalid for addressing public gatherings, and will be reissued if he applies for the correct category. Other government sources said the cancellation took place because of a “Red Corner Notice” issued against the Uighur leader by international law-enforcement agency Interpol, reportedly at Beijing’s behest.

Isa said that the notice pointed to “clear abuse” by China of Interpol’s authority and was “concerning.”

Write to Rishi Iyengar at rishi.iyengar@timeasia.com.

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