Foreign and Military Affairs

Chinese nationals set to be evacuated from Libya

By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-23 07:32
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Emergency headquarters formed to coordinate safe return from Libya

BEIJING - The government will send chartered planes as well as organize buses and vessels to help any possible evacuation of Chinese citizens from Libya, amid political turmoil in the country.

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President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao asked the relevant authorities to take "timely and effective measures" to achieve the aim, Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

There are about 33,000 Chinese nationals living and working in the north African country.

The State Council, or Cabinet, has established an emergency headquarters, headed by Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang, to organize any evacuation of Chinese people, including those from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, from Libya.

The headquarters decided at a meeting on Tuesday to immediately send chartered flights from Chinese airlines with medical and food supplies to the region.

Some of Libya's airports have been closed due to the upheaval in the country.

Apart from chartered flights, ships from the China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company (COSCO), as well as Chinese fishing boats operating in nearby waters, will also carry supplies and help if an evacuation is necessary.

Zhang said at the meeting that relevant authorities should initiate emergency response plans and "do their best" to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals.

At a regular news briefing on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said China was very concerned about the current situation in Libya. China hopes the African country "can restore social stability and political order as soon as possible", he added.

Since the unrest erupted in Libya on Feb 16, there has been vandalism, looting and arson, said Ma, adding that Chinese nationals had been injured and company property attacked.

The Ministry of Commerce has suggested that Chinese business people planning to visit Libya postpone their trip.

Latest reports said a construction site run by Huafeng Construction Co Ltd from Ningbo, Zhejiang province was looted by armed gangs on Sunday afternoon in the eastern city of Agedabia, and nearly 1,000 Chinese workers there were forced to leave their on-site living quarters. No casualties were reported.

The company on Tuesday confirmed the employees were safe and had stayed in a local school more than 10 km away from the construction site. Local people had provided them with food and water, it said.

The workers, with just their passports, plane tickets, and food and water, were trying to walk to the Libyan capital Tripoli, hundreds of kilometers away, hoping to take planes back to China, Beijing News reported.

A notice on the company's website on Tuesday said it had asked the Ningbo government and the Foreign Ministry for help.

"The company will try to get all our staff back, no matter what it takes," it said.

A Chinese embassy spokesperson in Libya, Du Minghao, confirmed on Tuesday that dozens of Chinese citizens had been injured, 15 of whom were in hospital. Du also said that Chinese-backed companies and construction sites had been vandalized and equipment stolen.

An employee at the embassy told China Daily that Chinese nationals in Libya predominantly work in the rail, telecom and oil sectors. There are also some students and restaurant staff.

Other foreigners have also been targeted in Libya. On Monday, some 500 local people looted a South Korean construction site west of Tripoli, injuring South Korean and Bangladeshi workers, the South Korean foreign ministry said.

And the Philippine government has decided to prepare plans for a possible evacuation of about 26,000 Filipino workers.

Wang Di, Dong Wei, Zhou Wa and Xinhua contributed to this story.