A journalist's diary: on the boat to Libya

By Fu Jing (
Updated: 2011-02-28 17:45
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Mediterranean Sea - With an urgent assignment to report on the evacuation of the Chinese stranded here, I am writing on the huge Greek ferry EL Venizelos. It is cruising on its way to Misurata, a western port of riot-stricken Libya.

A journalist's diary: on the boat to Libya
A crew member on the Greek ferry EL Venizelos is prepared to receive Chinese evacuees from Libya. [Photo/]

This is the sixth ship chartered by the Chinese government from the Greek island of Crete. After about 30 hours at sea, we are scheduled to reach the port at midnight local time on Sunday.

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Yes, you would be shocked if you were to see the sheer size of the 11-deck vessel. But you would also be reassured by how cooperative and experienced our Greek captains and crew members are. And you would be relieved by how well- prepared they are to receive our Chinese evacuees.

Nevertheless, the mission is challenging as we are approaching a country in total disarray. And only two young diplomats have been assigned the task of overseeing the the safe departure of the Chinese, who have been waiting at the port for hours if not days,

The two diplomats, one of whom was brought from the Chinese embassy in Sweden, remain calm. After boarding, they continued to stay in close contact with the captains and crew.

A major challenge is that mobile and communications services in Libya have been cut and Libyan port authorities have by and large stopped offering services. Consequently, it is very hard for the ship to enter the dock after dark.

Another headache for the two young diplomats is how to get the evacuees to line up to board. So far, it is not clear how many Chinese are waiting at the dock as there are no lines of communication with the port authorities. The captain has said the ship can hold a maximum of 2,700 passengers. So it is unimaginably demanding to board such a big group of panicked people and get them settled in cabins.

But the captain has been reassuring the diplomats, saying that the ship has already cruised to Benghazi, an eastern port of Libya, and brought nearly 2,900 Chinese back to the island of Crete on Saturday. The crew is confident it now has the experience to handle this rescue mission.

After the ship left Crete, the weather conditions worsened. The water was choppy and the ship took a bumpy route. But after a sleepless night, the sun came up and the waters calmed down, and the Mediterranean Sea started to show its charm as we approached Libya.

On the journey, I started to read up on Libyan history. Due to its geopolitical significance, Libyans have seldom been put in control of their own country. Invasion by foreign powers and colonial rule have dominated its history.

Not to mention the on-going civil conflicts, its education and income level, and human development index, which have stood out among African nations.

However, when in chaotic disorder, all of the benefits which should be enjoyed by ordinary people are no longer felt. In turn, the people suffer from those wrongdoings.

Moreover, this civil chaos is harmful to the rest of the world. The sheer enormity of the task of removing so many foreigners, including 30,000 Chinese, from violence and bloodshed should not be underestimated.

So, as I come closer to Libya, I hope the violence can be stopped and the killing can cease.

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