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Chinese becoming targets of terror, crime
By Tan Yingzi (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-30 08:44

Chinese citizens have become targets of foreign criminals and terrorists as the country's profile on the world stage has been increasing, said vice foreign minister Song Tao.

"We are facing a more and more complicated overseas security situation," he was quoted as saying by People's Daily yesterday.

"Deteriorating regional conflicts and turbulence in some countries have directly affected the safety of our citizens and companies abroad."

As many countries are suffering from the global financial crisis, Chinese people and Chinese companies are also experiencing a hard time, he added.

"In many non-traditional security accidents, such as terrorist activities, kidnapping and pirate attacks, Chinese citizens are now not only innocent victims but direct targets.

"More and more crimes and accidents are causing casualties and property losses for overseas Chinese."

Last year, more than 3,400 Chinese tourists were trapped in Thailand due to domestic turbulence in November and Chinese cargo vessels were attacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

The Chinese government rented 12 passenger flights to rescue the trapped citizens in Thailand and sent a convoy of warships to Somalia.

The two actions are widely seen as the best examples of China strengthening overseas protection in recent years.

But Chinese citizens are still not the main target of the terrorist attacks in the world, Li Wei, director of the center for counter-terrorism studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told China Daily yesterday.

"Inadequate preparations for the complicated overseas security situation is one of the main reasons for the increasing number of accidents," he said.

"Chinese visitors should know the sources of danger and find proper solutions before leaving."

The annual number of overseas visits by Chinese reached more than 45 million in 2008. Between 1949 and 1979 was only 280,000, the vice minister said.

To protect the safety and rights of Chinese citizens and organizations abroad, the Foreign Ministry set up a consular protection department in 2006.

In recent years, the ministry has handled more than 30,000 consular protection cases a year.

But the lack of local knowledge and customs and inadequate security measures also cause losses and taints the image of Chinese people, he said.

In order to equip Chinese citizens with more legal knowledge of foreign cultures, 1 million copies of overseas safety and etiquette guidebooks have been issued at all entrance and exit ports and overseas embassies. Free materials can be downloaded from the ministry's website.

(China Daily 09/30/2009 page4)