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Chinese embassy helps nationals in Bishkek
By Mu Zi (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-28 06:05

The Chinese Embassy in Bishkek is working to ensure the security of the 10,000 Chinese citizens in Kyrgyzstan, arranging for special planes and cars to evacuate those who want to return to China.

The embassy set up the emergency hotline 00996-312-610858 on Friday, and has received calls from more than 200 Chinese citizens living in the central Asian country who wanted to leave fearing for their safety, after at least four Chinese businessmen were injured by looters in riots.

Kyrgyz policemen stand guard outside the broken window of a Chinese business-center in central Bishkek, March 26, 2005. Four Chinese nationals were injured in the chaos and lootings. [Reuters]
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao warned Chinese citizens on Friday against non-essential travel. Widespread looting broke out after opposition supporters seized the presidential headquarters and ousted Askar Akayev's government from power.

Dozens of Chinese shops in Bishkek were ransacked during two uncertain days and nights of violence and vandalism that began on Thursday, resulting in an economic loss of at least US$8 million.

"The unrest has caused the worst economic damage to Chinese traders in Kyrgyzstan in more than 10 years of bilateral ties," Xinhua quoted the embassy as saying.

Fortunately, order was starting to return to the capital on Saturday when parliament convened and slated a presidential election for June 26.

But most shops remained closed as business people used huge stones to block up the doors of their outlets or welded gates and windows shut, Xinhua reported.

A Chinese businessman from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, named Hawier, was quoted as saying: "I told my two children again and again not to go outside... At this time, life and family are much more important than goods or money."

He said he hoped tension would calm and his business in Bishkek would resume normal trading as soon as possible.

China was poised to reopen its closed border with Kyrgyzstan yesterday. China closed one of its two border crossings on Friday.

The other border crossing, which connects the remote western Chinese city of Kashgar with Bishkek, was also closed during the weekend.

Both crossings were expected to reopen today, local border patrol officials said.

Xinhua reported that two of the four injured Chinese people have left hospital and the other two are no longer in a serious condition.

They were injured in a riot on Thursday night as more than 4,000 locals rushed into a Chinese clothing market in the eastern part of Bishkek.

There were only 300 Chinese business people in the market at that time. They could not repell the mob armed with sticks, stones and iron rods.

The clothing market, with a monthly trade revenue of US$20 million, was reduced to a mass of debris and empty shelves and containers.

In other parts of the city countless shops along the main streets had their windows smashed and goods plundered.

The Guoying Trading Centre, a locally renowned prosperous shopping mall owned by Chinese traders, was also gutted on Thursday night, clearly the result of arson.

The four-storey building was covered in soot, with goods pillaged and windows shattered. No casualties were reported at the centre.

(China Daily 03/28/2005 page1)

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