03/08/2022, 14.20
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Chinese citizens stranded in Ukraine criticise Beijing's slow reaction

by John Ai

The Chinese embassy suggested that Chinese citizens take trains to neighbouring countries. Chinese man shot and wounded: now in hospital. Beijing denies the death of Chinese students and continues to censor online anti-war speeches.



Rome (AsiaNews) - Chinese citizens stranded in Ukraine after the Russian invasion have criticised the slow reaction of their authorities, with Chinese students going online to compalin about the embassy's indifference. A video circulating online shows a crying student calling the diplomatic office in Kiev: an official replied that they were unable to help her, suggesting that she go to the train station on her own.

The Chinese government said yesterday that most of its citizens had left Ukraine. However, the evacuation is going ahead with difficulty. State-run CCTV confirmed that a Chinese man was shot while trying to escape and is now in hospital. Ukrainian media claimed that the Russian army bombed the State Academy of Culture in Kharkiv, causing the death of four Chinese students. This was denied by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On 2 March, the Chinese embassy organised buses to take its compatriots - including their family members of other nationalities - to neighbouring Moldova. According to the embassy, at least 6,000 Chinese citizens have registered to flee Ukraine. Official Chinese media also say that there were "charter flights" from China to Romania to bring back compatriots. The website of the Chinese embassy in Romania, however, speaks only of a 'temporary flight', with prices determined by the airlines.

Given the information and intelligence provided before the war, the diplomatic missions of most countries left Ukraine and invited their citizens to do the same. The Chinese authorities had announced the organisation of charter flights to bring Chinese citizens back home after the outbreak of the conflict, emphatically stating that compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan could board the flights. The plan was cancelled due to the closure of Ukrainian airspace.

However, the Taiwanese government organised a bus and transported its citizens to Poland. Discussions about the Taipei-led evacuation operation are censored in China. Some web users say that their WeChat account (a well-known Chinese messaging app) was blocked after talking about the relocation of the Taiwanese.

Chinese authorities also censor comments by Chinese students in Ukraine, who not only complain about the lack of help from their embassy, but also tell about the real condition in Ukraine. China does not fully support Putin's war action, but avoids condemning it publicly, firmly controlling the public debate on the conflict. 

At the recent opening ceremony of the Winter Paralympics in Beijing, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, Andrew Parsons, denounced the war and called for peace in his speech. Chinese public TV did not translate the parts of his speech that referred to the conflict in Ukraine, even lowering the volume and stopping the sign language interpreter. Also in sports, China stopped airing English Premier League and German Bundesliga football matches because they broadcast messages in support of Ukraine.

Jin Xing, a transgender dancer and TV presenter with more than 13 million followers on Weibo (China's Twitter), published a post railing against "a crazy Russian man", a clear reference to Putin. The authorities then removed Jin Xing's post and shut down her Weibo account for "violating the law".

In another case, the Canadian embassy in Beijing had put up posters on the wall expressing support for Ukraine. On one of the posters, vulgarities were sprayed with red paint. Pro-Russian speeches and derogatory comments about Ukraine caused anti-Chinese sentiment in Ukraine and endangered Chinese citizens stranded in the country under Russian attack. In this regard, Chinese social networks have also started to remove aggressive anti-Ukraine messages.

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