An evacuee arriving in Beijing (Photo from Sina)
As violence continues to escalate across Libya (read one of the first dispatches to come out of the capital Tripoli here), thousands have begun fleeing the country. Reports have surfaced of repeated attacks on Chinese construction and oil sites, some confirmed, but news coming out of the country is sporadic at best. Over 30,000 Chinese citizens work and live in Libya, where China’s estimated bilateral trade is over $6.6 billion. Here are the latest updates from the China side:
- On Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry urged Libya to restore social stability as soon as possible. They confirmed that Chinese citizens had been attacked, and called for an investigation into the incident.
- Also On Tuesday, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao announced the creation of a government task force, to be led by Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang, which would be responsible for the swift and safe evacuation of China’s estimated 30,000 plus citizens living and working in Libya, China’s largest-ever evacuation.
- 4,600 have been evacuated so far, the majority of those on passenger cruise ships chartered from Greece, an effort that is expected to enhance bilateral ties between the Greece and China. The first two ships, carrying an estimated 4,000 Chinese, departed Benghazi Wednesday night and were scheduled to arrive in Crete around noon Thursday (Beijing time). A third ship arrived in Benghazi Wednesday night. They expect the ships to make two trips each and carry a total of 15,000 Chinese to safety.
- The first of the chartered evacuation flights left Libya this morning carrying 200 Chinese nationals, mostly women and children.
- Hundreds of Chinese have also joined the thousands flooding overland into Egypt, where they will be flown home from Cairo.
- The first of the evacuees arrived home today to something akin to war-time fanfare. China Media Project points out that the Chinese press are focusing almost all of their Libya coverage on the evacuation effort.
- Reports on Sunday said that a Huafeng Construction Co Ltd construction site located near the Eastern city of Agedabia was attacked and looted, forcing 1,000 Chinese employees to flee their on-site living quarters. On Tuesday the company reported that employees were safe and had stayed in a local school.
- Today China’s largest oil producer CNPC confirmed it had been attacked, and announced it is evacuating all 381 employees from the country. There were reports Wednesday evening of an attack on a CNPC subsidiary Great Wall Drill Engineering Company, located in Misurata, that caused tens of millions of RMB in damages.
- On Tuesday a microblogger on Sina appeared claiming to be a worker for one of the attacked companies, and sent out a plea for help. The posts were retweeted thousands of times, and helped mount pressure on the government to expedite an evacuation. China Real Time Report has more.
It’s worth noting that in the Chinese media, every single report of an attack on Chinese property in Libya was followed immediately by a statement saying that Chinese were not the only victims, and that South Korean companies had been targeted as well (the attacks on S. Koreans actually began even before the unrest in Egypt.) It seems the emphasis in Beijing is to keep angry backlash to a minimum.
Our thoughts are with those in Libya as the world watches and waits for Gaddafi to step, or more likely to be torn, down.