Home / News / India /  Wary Beijing looks to evacuate its citizens from in India as covid-19 spreads

NEW DELHI : China on Monday announced plans to evacuate its citizens facing “difficulties" in India because of the coronavirus pandemic, risking speculation in the middle of heightened military tensions between the two nations.

A notice put up on the Chinese embassy website advised those who wanted to go home, including students, tourists, and businesspeople, to book tickets on special flights.

The move to evacuate Chinese citizens from India comes against the backdrop of the country entering the list of the 10 worst-hit nations by the novel coronavirus, with more than 150,000 infections and 4,100 deaths.

The evacuation also comes at a time of high military tensions between India and China, with Chinese troops transgressing into Indian territory in several places in Ladakh and Sikkim this month. As such, the advise on the Chinese embassy website for its citizens who want to go home, has triggered speculation in some quarters of a possible escalation in the conflict.

Two people familiar with the matter said around 60,000 foreign nationals stranded by the pandemic have been evacuated from India by their respective countries by special flights.

Despite the tensions on the border, China’s ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, in a Twitter post on Monday said a second round of “donations from JackMa Foundation & Alibaba Foundation, including ventilators, PPE & other medical supplies arrived in Delhi. China will continue to support India in the fight against #COVID19."

“Solidarity & cooperation are the most effective weapons against the virus," Sun said in his post.

Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese Studies at the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University, said China had previously not evacuated its nationals from India as Beijing had been worried about possible re-introduction of the virus among its people. “Now that that’s under control, I think they are going ahead with evacuation," he said.

According to the Chinese embassy notice, those of its nationals opting to go home would have to accept all quarantine and epidemic prevention arrangements ahead of boarding the flight, as well as after entering China.

Citizens wanting to return to China have to register by the morning of 27 May, the notice said, but did not say when the flights would leave. People under treatment for covid-19, those who were in contact with covid-19 patients, or those who have shown symptoms in the last 14 days should not take the flights, it said. “Through the unified arrangement of the ministry of foreign affairs and relevant departments, the Chinese diplomatic and consular missions in India will assist international students in India, tourists, temporary business visitors who have difficulties and are in urgent need to take a temporary flight back home to China," the notice said.

The notice suggested people from some other countries could also be evacuated. The cost of the flight ticket and quarantine in China will have to be borne by the evacuees, it said. “If your body temperature exceeds 37.3 degrees (inclusive) before boarding or if you have suspected symptoms, you will be refused boarding by the airline," the notice said. It also warned applicants not to hide their medical history.

“Once a passenger conceals his illness by taking antipyretics and other inhibitory drugs and his contact history is found during quarantine inspection, he will be held liable for the crime of endangering public safety," the notice said.

The exact number of Chinese nationals in India was not immediately clear but Chinese tourists are known to visit Buddhist sites. According to a an answer tabled in Parliament last year, Chinese nationals were the largest group among India’s neighbours to apply for employment visas in India.

A total of 1,089 Chinese nationals had registered on work visas in 2019, with Maharashtra and Karnataka having the largest numbers of Chinese nationals.

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