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Hotline helps nationals overseas

Updated: 2014-09-03 01:33
By ZHANG YUNBI (China Daily)

40,000 cases

Chinese embassies and consulates handled about 40,000 consular cases in 2013 
China opened a global calling center on Tuesday to help the record number of Chinese traveling or working overseas.

Chinese diplomats have guided or evacuated compatriots out of turmoil or criminal assaults this year in places such as South Sudan, Vietnam and Libya.

The country will "weave a full-time 'safety net' that spans the globe to make sure our compatriots receive timely consular protection and service from the motherland wherever they are", Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at the inauguration ceremony at the ministry on Tuesday.

Officials have estimated that the number of Chinese citizens going abroad this year may exceed 100 million, the largest of any nation.

Through the 24-hour global hotline "12308", Beijing "will be briefed in a timely manner about the suffering and demand of Chinese citizens abroad" and deliver help when they are in need, Wang said.

Li Wei, an anti-terrorism studies researcher at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said, "The increasing complexity of security overseas has, to some extent, contributed to the boom in China's consular assistance service".

Following anti-China violence in Vietnam in mid-May, the Chinese government dispatched four vessels to bring more than 3,500 Chinese nationals home.

Amid rising armed conflict in Libya since July, the Foreign Ministry and the Chinese embassy there alerted Chinese citizens to leave immediately and helped evacuate more than 220 people.

Chinese foreign affairs organizations have built a mechanism that ensures contingency response, communication and coordination, and the nation has been speeding up emergency responses and improving the mobilization of national-level resources, Li said.

There are timely updates of travel alerts on the ministry's website, and the consular affairs department has unveiled an account on the popular mobile application WeChat.

But "a huge contrast has been drawn between the limited capacity of the government and China's expanding interests overseas", said Wang Yizhou, a professor of international affairs at Peking University.

Chinese embassies and consulates abroad handled around 40,000 consular cases last year.

Observers warned about the lack of precautions against security and policy factors among Chinese citizens and businesses.

He Wenping, a research fellow of the Institute of West Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said consideration should be made for security costs in the event of an accident or an incident.

Security evaluation should be put into feasibility studies of projects overseas, she said.

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