By MASAYUKI TAKADA/ Correspondent
March 3, 2022 at 16:15 JST
Fan Xianrong, the Chinese Ambassador to Ukraine, vows not to abandon Chinese expatriates in Ukraine in a video posed on Chinese social media on Feb. 27. (From the social media post of the Chinese Embassy in Ukraine)
BEIJING--Anger is starting to boil over in China against the Chinese government, which supposedly had cozy ties with Russia, over its dangerously slow efforts to evacuate thousands of Chinese expatriates from Ukraine.
The Chinese public has expressed dismay on social media, saying the government should have immediately guaranteed its citizens' safety if it indeed had friendly ties with Russia and had been notified of the imminent invasion.
In the face of increasing anxiety and frustration, the top Chinese diplomat was forced to call the Ukraine foreign minister on March 1 to help ensure expatriates' safety.
On Feb. 27, three days after Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine, Fan Xianrong, the Chinese Ambassador to Ukraine, made a frantic call for his countrymen in Ukraine to remain calm in a video posed on Chinese social media.
“Missiles are flying in the air and explosions and shelling are taking place on the ground,” he said. “Let’s wait and make a move to evacuate only after it becomes safe.”
An estimated 6,000 Chinese expatriates remain in Ukraine.
But few major efforts were made by Beijing to evacuate its citizens before the start of the Russian invasion.
In the middle of February, when the Russian threat was increasing, Japan and the United States issued warnings for their nationals in Ukraine to flee to safety.
But China did not take a similar step at the time. Rather, Chinese officials criticized the United States for scaremongering over the threat of a Russian invasion.
“It is not responsible to trumpet the prospects of war,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
The Chinese Embassy in Ukraine began asking its citizens whether they wanted to evacuate “on charter flight to be arranged by the Chinese government” on Feb. 25, the day after Russia launched its invasion.
But the response came too late. Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights in the face of the Russian aggression.
Being trapped in Ukraine and caught in the crossfire has upset the Chinese there.
In the same video, Fan tried to reassure his compatriots shaken by unfounded rumors that the ambassador had fled from Ukraine.
“I have received calls from fellow Chinese to confirm whether I remain in Kyiv,” he said. “The ambassador would never ever abandon his people.”
The Chinese Embassy-led evacuation finally got under way on the night of Feb. 28, according to Chinese media.
But a Chinese individual was injured by a gunshot in the course of evacuating on March 1.
The embassy the following day called on Chinese nationals to act prudently as their inappropriate comments and action "could cause misunderstanding" among the Ukraine military and the Ukrainian people.
Some media have reported that anti-China sentiment is growing in Ukraine due to Beijing’s siding with Moscow over the invasion, heightening concerns among Chinese leaders.
On March 1, when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, over the phone, Wang asked for cooperation from the Ukrainian government to ensure the safety of Chinese there.
The talks are widely seen as a move to address the Chinese public’s irritation with its government over its slow response over the evacuation.
But the request was apparently insufficient to quell the public's growing distrust of the Chinese government, judging from numerous posts expressing doubts on social media.
“Did China hear from Russia about the invasion beforehand?” said one post. “If it had not, that means that China’s relationship with Russia is not a big deal, after all. If it had, the obvious question is why the evacuation of Chinese had to be delayed this long, putting thousands of lives in danger?”
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