Women's world No 15 Ju Wenjun refused permission to board flight to London as she did not hold a transit visa
A top Chinese chess player has found herself stuck between the Rock and a hard place after an airline refused to allow her to board a flight to London following a tournament in Gibraltar because she did not hold a transit visa to enter the UK.
Ju Wenjun found herself stranded after taking part in the 11th annual Tradewise chess festival held in Gibraltar, having travelled there on 19 January via London from Hong Kong on a British Airways flight. However, when she went to board her return flight to China via Heathrow on 1 February, the day after her 22nd birthday, she was denied entry onto the flight.
"I don't have a UK transit visa and they let me board (in Hong Kong). When I arrived in the UK, I told them I was going to play in Gibraltar at the Tradewise festival. I showed them my airline ticket and they let me pass through. They let me show my tickets and my invitation," said Ju on the telephone from Gibraltar.
Ju is a grandmaster, ranked No 15 in international women's chess and No 3 in China. The
tournament organisers, who have been rallying on her behalf, said she has been told she must send her passport to the UK to be issued a transit visa and then have it sent back to Gibraltar. But Ju doesn't understand why she should have to go through this when she was allowed to pass through the UK in January on her way to the chess tournament.
"I don't want to send my passport to the UK. It takes time, and my parents are worried about me," she said. "I hope this will end soon."
The tournament director, Stuart Conquest, said Ju is growing increasingly distressed about her extended stay on the Rock. "I think they should use a bit of compassion and let this girl go home. What is the point of making her send her passport to the UK? Everyone's waiting for her in China," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said that the UK Border Agency was not responsible for visa checks made by airline carriers outside the country. "It has nothing to do with us," she said.
At the time of publication, British Airways was unavailable for comment.
Conquest says this is the first time any incident like this has happened to international players participating in the tournament in the 11 years it has been running.
In the meantime, Ju is being looked after by Conquest and others in Gibraltar, even being treated to a meal out - at Kowloon Chinese restaurant.