tirsdag 8. mars 2022

‘It came too late’: Chinese students who fled Ukraine criticise embassy response

Immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, Yang, a 22-year-old classical music student in Kyiv, called the Chinese embassy in the city to seek help. He tried several times but the line was engaged. “I don’t know why the embassy didn’t tell us the war was going to break out when other countries advised their citizens to leave days before,” he said. Yang then followed his university’s emergency protocols and took refuge in a bomb shelter. Days later an escape route began to circulate among his friends. He decided to follow the instruction and flee on his own.

Almost two weeks before Russia acted – described by the Chinese media as “special military operations” – countries including the UK and Canada advised their nationals to leave Ukraine. But in the case of China, which had nearly 6,000 nationals in the country, it was not until the day after the war broke out that the embassy advised its citizens to leave.

“By the time they knew [the war was to break out], it was already too late to evacuate,” said Yun Sun, the director of the China programme at the Stimson Center in Washington. Until the war broke out, many high-profile Chinese pundits and news outlets had insisted western prediction of an invasion was “fake news”.