China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi declared on Tuesday that “refugees should return to their homeland” and made it clear China does not want any more of them.
“Nations in the Middle East are carrying an immense burden in accepting refugees from Syria and other places,” Wang said, speaking from Beirut. “Refugees are not immigrants and are roaming the world, after losing their homeland. I look forward to the time when all refugees return to their homeland to rebuild their hometowns.”
Wang added that Chinese humanitarian aid to refugee camps should be enough to discharge Beijing’s duties to displaced foreigners. The South China Morning Post quotes him saying that the Middle Eastern refugee problem should be solved by “accelerating the political settlement of the Syria conflict.”
UPI notes that Wang’s comments were prompted by Chinese media coverage of World Refugee Day last Tuesday, June 20, and the overwhelming resistance of Chinese citizens to allowing migration into their country. One online survey pegged Chinese resistance to accepting refugees at 97 percent.
“The media reports were intended to create a positive atmosphere for accepting refugees. If refugees enter China, the Chinese people will suffer tremendously. Social anxiety will escalate,” said a representative Chinese social media user quoted by UPI.
Business Standard has some even more fiery comments from Chinese opponents of migration, including people who referred to U.N. Refugee Agency Goodwill Ambassador Yao Chen, a popular actress, as “Saint Mary Bitch” because she urged China to give more support to refugees.
The backlash against Yao Chen’s comments included suggestions that she is an idiot (“long hair but short of knowledge”), a hypocrite, a coward, and a paid agent of foreign adversaries looking to weaken China by slamming it with a European-style refugee tidal wave.
Apparently, some of their anger over the refugee proposition flows from lingering hard feelings about China’s infamous “one child” population control policy, with Chinese angry that their birth rates would be tightly controlled only to make room for a refugee population.
Also, many Chinese feel that the Middle East and its humanitarian disasters simply are not their problem. Some look back to Chinese history and argue that refugees should fight their oppressors instead of seeking asylum elsewhere.
China’s small refugee population is almost entirely from Vietnam, dating back to the 1980s, with a smattering of North Korean defectors. The prospect of a refugee wave from a collapsing North Korean state is one of Beijing’s greatest nightmares. The number of current refugees from other sources currently sheltered by China numbers in the hundreds and most of them are seen as temporary, according to Business Standard.
Several Chinese analysts quoted by the South China Morning Post argued that Middle Eastern refugees really do not want to live in China and would encounter “religious, cultural, and political” problems if they did so.