China rushes to evacuate citizens from Vietnam


VUNG ANG: The four ships dispatched by China to pull back its nationals affected by the recent violence in Vietnam have left a central Vietnamese port Monday with more than 3,500 evacuees.

The passenger vessels, Wuzhishan, Tongguling, Zijing 12 and Baishiling, are expected to arrive at the Xiuying port of southern Chinese city Haikou on Tuesday. The four ships, with a capacity of 1,000 passengers each, are part of a massive evacuation operation launched in the immediate aftermath of the deadly riots in Vietnam. Protests targeting foreign companies in central and southern Vietnamese provinces turned violent Tuesday, leaving at least two Chinese dead and more than 100 injured. At a time when the safety and legitimate rights of the overseas Chinese are gravely threatened, the government is demonstrating decisiveness, efficiency and a growing capability to protect its people. “Finally home,” many Chinese workers sighed upon boarding Tongguling, with apparent signs of relief on their faces.

Most of the evacuees aboard the four ships are workers from Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), a contractor in the construction of an iron and steel complex in Vietnam’s Ha Tinh Province. The project, invested by Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group, was among the worst-hit in the riots. “My workers are totally relaxed within 10 minutes after boarding the ship, which we feel like our floating national territory. Thank you, our great motherland!” Yan Guoliang, manager of a MCC construction site in Ha Tinh told Xinhua aboard Tongguling. He recalled the horror among his workers after their construction site was attacked, and some of them were so terrified that they even held on to steel tubes during sleep.

But with the help of a Chinese trans-agency working group and the Chinese Embassy in Vietnam, an evacuation plan was soon worked out for Yan and his colleagues. Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao, who led the working group, told Xinhua that the Chinese government has always attached great importance to the safety of its nationals, which is Beijing’s top priority in dealing with the aftermath of the violence in Vietnam. The Chinese government deployed all resources at its disposal and acted promptly so that the operation was executed quickly and was concluded within a few days, Liu added.

According to him, the evacuation of the Chinese nationals in Ha Tinh was carried out in several ways. The injured Chinese citizens were already evacuated by chartered flights a few days ago and the rest of them are being ferried home by passenger ships because Ha Tinh is about 12 to 14 hours’ drive from the airport in Hanoi. “We were notified at midnight. We acted quickly but were still feeling great pressure as the clock was ticking,” said Zhang Jie, deputy chief of Hainan Maritime Safety Administration which is involved in the evacuation effort. Zhang said the maritime sector and shipping companies in Hainan province had entered a state of high alert after being notified of the evacuation mission. “It was not easy to get the ships prepared for the voyage within just several hours,” Zhang said, adding that, besides deploying ships and preparing paperwork, they needed to supply the ships with water, fuel and provisions.

Wuzhishan captain Li Mengmin told reporters that their preparation work started at 1 a.m. Sunday (1700 GMT Saturday), and the crew members were well prepared by around 4 a.m. (2000 GMT, Saturday), adding each of the ships had doctors, police officers and interpreters onboard in case of an emergency. “As long as they (Chinese nationals in Vietnam) get on board, they don’t have to worry about anything, including food, living materials and medical care,” Li said. “The government moved very quickly as the first ship had already set off from Haikou at 8 a.m. (0000 GMT) after receiving orders in the very early hours of Sunday, and all the ships were on their way by 4 p.m. (0800 GMT) except for the back-up vessel,” said Dong Manyuan, deputy director of China Institute of International Studies.

Dong said the government’s almost immediate response showed it attached great importance to the safety of its citizens overseas, and a very effective emergency response plan was in place. “We need to take every possible means to protect the legitimate rights of Chinese citizens and enterprises overseas,” Dong said, adding efforts should be made to ensure overseas Chinese nationals could get consular protection or services wherever they are.

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