China Evacuates Nationals From Chaotic Libya
For the estimated 33,000 Chinese working and living in Libya, the Chinese government has offered “all-out efforts to secure [their] life and property”, as protests there escalate. From People’s Daily:
A government task force, led by Vice-Premer Zhang Dejiang and State Councillor Dai Bingguo, was set up Tuesday by Beijing to lead and orchestrate efforts for evacuating Chinese citizens, including compatriots from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, from Libya.
The task force decided at a meeting Tuesday in Beijing to immediately send chartered flights from Chinese airlines with medical and food supplies to the region.
Some Chinese companies located in Libya have been looted and Chinese workers have been attacked. From Xinhua:
Several Chinese companies in Libya have been attacked and looted, but no casualties were reported yet, a Chinese worker here said Monday.
A construction site run by Huafeng Construction Co., Ltd. from China’s Zhejiang Province was looted by a group of armed gangsters Sunday afternoon in the eastern city of Agedabia, and nearly 1,000 Chinese workers there were forced out of the site and became homeless, said Yuan Canhua, a Chinese living in the suburb of Tripoli, capital city of Libya.
Libya is a moderately important supplier of crude oil for China. In 2010, Chinese state-owned oil company Sinopec raised the number of imported Libyan crude oil to close to 6 million barrels a month; imports from Libyan now account for around 3% of China’s total, having more than doubled over the last two years.
The evacuation is to take place by land, sea and air, with an array of modes of transport pressed into service. In addition, a PLAN frigate already in the Indian Ocean on an anti-piracy mission has been diverted to monitor and support the effort. From China SignPost:
The PLA Navy has just dispatched Xuzhou, a Type 054 Jiangkai-II class missile frigate, from the ongoing seventh PLAN anti-piracy task force deployment off Somalia to steam to Libyan coast to provide support and protection for the ongoing evacuation mission there. The escort mission has been approved by the Central Military Commission, according to Xinhua, and at least 6,300 of the roughly 30,000 PRC citizens in Libya have been evacuated. The news agency adds that the Chinese evacuation is also utilizing chartered aircraft, overland routes to Egypt and Tunisia, ships from China’s major state shipping firms, and Greek merchant vessels in the region, which are said to be closely coordinating their operations with the Chinese government and plan to evacuate up to 15,000 Chinese from Libya ….
… Commissioned in 2008, Xuzhou is a 4,000-ton frigate with a Vertical Launch System capable of launching HHQ-16 surface-to-air missiles to protect against air threats and a hangar with one Z-9 helicopter. It is a solid medium-sized warship, but cannot carry many people and thus would not be useful as a rescue vessel. Xuzhou’s escort mission is likely designed to serve several related immediate objectives, including avoiding a USS Cole-style terrorism or irregular attack scenario that could harm evacuees, and sending a clear message to various elements in Libya not to harm Chinese civilians or disrupt their evacuation.
The message is also intended for people in China, however, as the Wall Street Journal notes:
… [Criticism] over the government’s ability to protect Chinese citizens abroad is in some ways more sensitive for the government, because it has widespread public resonance in China. As the country’s wealth and global reach has expanded, its people have grown increasingly bold in demanding their government do more to protect them while overseas.
The government has been criticized for responding slowly in past crises. In 2006, public criticism over the government’s silence on the anti-Chinese riots in the Solomon Islands prompted the Foreign Ministry to issue a detailed account of everything it was doing to protect Chinese citizens stuck there. Beijing responded similarly last year after bloggers complained about the handling of a hostage crisis in the Philippines in which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed.
For more information on the frigate, see SinoDefense.com.