After terror attack, experts say China should boost security of embassies

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/13 19:38:39

A member of the Kyrgyz security forces addresses passers-by near the site of a bomb blast outside China's Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on August 30. Photo: CFP

 "How can China develop its diplomacy when some of the country's diplomatic personnel face safety threats every day?" is a question being asked more and more as the risks faced by Chinese embassies grow, with some experts saying the government has been too lax in establishing security safeguards.

China last week strongly condemned the alleged organizers and perpetrators of a terrorist attack on its embassy in Kyrgyzstan on September 6, one of whom was apparently a member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which calls for an independent Xinjiang.

China wants to enhance international cooperation against terrorism and protect the safety of Chinese citizens and institutes, Hua Chunying, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at a press conference the day after the attack, adding that China will support Kyrgyzstan's investigation.

This is not the first terror attack on a Chinese embassy.

Zhang Nan, a security officer at the Chinese Embassy in Somalia was killed in a bomb attack in July, 2015, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Lou Kun, a counselor at the China's embassy in Somalia, said that the embassy moved into the UN compound after the attack, and this area is currently guarded by forces from Somalia, the UN and China.

 "Our embassy is located in the capital Mogadishu and these attacks happen several times a month," said Lou, adding that the major safety threats are suicide bombers, mortars, assassination and other terrorist attacks from al-Shabaab Islamists.

In 2013, the Chinese Embassy in Syria was attacked by a mortar, injuring one Syrian employee and damaging part of the building.

"We face security threats on a daily basis. There were four explosions in four cities in Syria within 30 minutes on September 5, while the closest one was just one mile from where our employees live," said a counselor surnamed Han at the embassy.

"The major threat we face is explosions and attacks from bombs," Han added.

Increasing threats

Chinese embassies are facing a growing number of threats, as the country's international role becomes more prominent and China's social conflicts escalate because of domestic reforms, Xia Liping, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University and former diplomat, told the Global Times on September 7.

Xia said the threats Chinese embassies face are mostly caused by domestic conflicts in foreign countries, terrorist attacks and anti-China forces, such as the ETIM.

"Moreover, if China's diplomatic relationship goes sour with a certain country, the Chinese embassy in that country is more likely to be attacked," said Xia.

In 2012, Fukuoka district court in Japan found construction worker Yuya Fujita guilty of the forcible obstruction of business after he threw two smoke bombs onto the grounds of the Chinese Consulate General on September 17, days after the Japanese government announced its plan to "nationalize" the Diaoyu Islands.

To be strengthened

Although Chinese embassies face threats overseas, the government is not doing enough to protect them, said Xia.

"The buildings and facilities of some embassies are crude. When I was working for the Chinese Embassy in Israel, our office was rented and has no boundary walls," said Xia.

Lou said that China restarted sending diplomats to Somalia in 2014 but they had to work in the most tightly secured hotel in the capital as they didn't even have a place of their own.

Xia said many embassies don't have enough security forces and some even have no security at all.

An employee surnamed Zhang from the Chinese Embassy in Mongolia told the Global Times that the embassy's only security forces are guards deployed by the Mongolian government.

"Mongolia is a relatively safe country. China only dispatches its own armed forces to countries that are extremely dangerous," he said.

"In some places, the security does not work at all since the threats they face, such as aerial bomb attacks, cannot be stopped by security," said Xia.

"Although we are located in a strongly fortified area, there's no way to keep away any bombs," said Han, explaining that the embassy in Syria has installed steel plates to protect the building and employees try to avoid outdoor activities as much as possible.

"How can diplomatic personnel perform their duties properly while they have to stay indoors and try to avoid bombs all day?" said Xia.

She said the Chinese government should hire private security companies to protect these embassies, though the "military will be a better choice but it requires negotiation between the two governments," said Xia.

Newspaper headline: Diplomacy under fire

Posted in: Diplomacy

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