Chinese public criticizes calls from UN to take refugees

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/23 0:23:40

Hosting refugees not only thing China can do to help: analyst

Syrian refugees arrive at a camp on Germany's border, awaiting entrance, in April 2016. File photo: IC

Calls for the Chinese government to do more to accept refugees into the country have met with waves of criticism among the public who cite Europe's immigration crisis and China's lack of ability as major reasons.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sent out a Weibo post on Tuesday, World Refugee Day, after a charity event, paying respect to a total of 65.6 million people globally who are forced to be homeless as well as people who support and are concerned about refugees.

A comment critical of the UNHCR's call has been reposted over 80,000 times. The top comments under that Weibo post are all critical. One read, "stop creating an atmosphere that we should accept refugees, it's revolting. If we don't have that kind of national prowess, we shouldn't randomly receive refugees."

"There are still a lot of Chinese people who live in poverty and can't pay for medical bills. Shouldn't we solve our own problems first?" reads another. In recent years, there have been many calls for China to do more to show responsibility as a big country, including on the refugee issue.

"By any measure this is an unacceptable number, and it speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common purpose in preventing and resolving crises, and ensuring together that the world's refugees, internally displaced and asylum seekers are properly protected and cared for while solutions are pursued," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in a press release sent by the Beijing office to the Global Times.

"We have to do better for these people. For a world in conflict, what is needed is determination and courage, not fear."

On whether China should openly welcome refugees, the Communist Youth League wrote a public article on WeChat on Thursday, saying that the refugee problem was not caused by China and the Chinese government has constantly been providing humanitarian aid, as well as being willing to keep communicating with Western countries, and the core solution to the refugee problem is to keep these regions developing and stable.

The view is shared by many. The core arguments are that China is still developing itself, has its own issues and is unable to take on more burden.

Vehement reaction

Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said that the reason Chinese society has reacted so vehemently to this issue is because the advantageous policies enjoyed by foreigners in China is harming Chinese society.

"Refugees' impact in a host country is stronger than normal foreigners who enter and exit a place. The refugee crisis in Europe since 2015 has provided a destructive example for the world," he said.

He said if refugees from regions with unstable politics and bad safety records come to China in increasing numbers, it's a lot of pressure on China's safety and even stability.

At the end of 2016, there were 317,923 persons of concern in China, according to UNHCR statistics. The category is an umbrella term for refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons and others.

The biggest group among these is some 300,000 Indo-Chinese from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, who came in the early 1980s and are ethnically Chinese, the UN said. China is a party to two international refugee pacts - the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol.

As there is no national legislation for refugees in China, the UNHCR is responsible for screening the status of asylum seekers and identifying durable solutions for refugees. The Chinese government just gives residential registrations.

Liu Yiqiang, executive director at the Chinese Initiative on International Law, told the Global Times that he believes China could do more on the issue.

"As the second-largest economy in the world, we have the potential to do more in resolving this global crisis, as Chinese leaders have expressed on various occasions. I understand that public opinion is against hosting refugees in China. However, that is not the only thing [and not even the most needed] we as a nation can do for ordinary refugees," he said.

At a conference at the UN's headquarters in New York last September, Premier Li Keqiang spoke on the refugee issue, saying China has always held the issue in high regard and actively participated in solving the problem.


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