Saturday, May 20, 2006

Solomons Chinese

Chinese back home after nightmare in Solomons 2006-04-26 04:04:38

GUANGZHOU, April 25 (Xinhua) -- After a six-hour flight and nearly four-hours on a bumpy bus, Ma Peizhu finally saw her parents' grey-brick house on the outskirt of Taishan, a southern Chinese city and the ancestral home of generations of overseas Chinese.

"Thank God I am home." said Ma who burst into tears as she hugged her parents tightly. Her two-year-old daughter, understanding little of what was happening, turned on a beaming smile for grandparents.

Ma and the other four members of her family were among the hundreds of Chinese who have returned home from the Solomon Islands after escaping recent riots there.


At half past midnight on Tuesday morning, 310 overseas Chinese including 21 Hong Kong citizens arrived in Guangzhou City in South China's Guangdong Province after being air-lifted from Solomon Islands.

Outside the airport, local officials from the nearby cities of Jiangmen, Kaiping, Enping, Taishan waited for hours with idling buses to pick them up.

At 3:00 a.m., a coach carrying 45 weary Chinese from the Solomon Islands heads to Taishan. Most of them fell asleep shortly after the bus departs.

Three hours later, they were received with warm hugs and foods.

Twenty-year-old Feng Youyu looked terrified recalling the nightmare experience.

"Local people broke in as I rushed out from the shop's back door. They took away everything they could and smashed the things that were too heavy to move," said Feng, who went to the Pacific country for two months.

"I'm so relieved he's finally home. I was so worried I stayed in front of TV all day long following the situation," Feng's father said.

Over 1,000 Chinese nationals or people of Chinese origin lived in the Solomon Islands before violence erupted in the country's capital Honiara and local rioters looted the city's Chinatown.

Lu Xiongwei, an official with the Guangdong Provincial office for overseas Chinese affairs, said most of the returned Chinese were from his province and many had worked in the Solomon Islands for ten to twenty years.

"Most of them have families or relatives in Guangdong. Our top task is to help them back home," he said.


As home province of many of the overseas Chinese, Lu said Guangdong learned about the unrest in the Solomon Islands on April 19, one day after the violence broke out. The province immediately reported the information to the Central Government.

Since China and the Solomon Islands have no diplomatic ties, the Chinese Foreign Ministry made urgent contact with the governments of Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, asking them to provide assistance to Chinese citizens if required.

Meanwhile, the ministry also ordered the Chinese Embassy in Papua New Guinea to immediately dispatch diplomats to the Solomon Islands to contact local Chinese people.

"I was born and grew up in the Solomon Islands and had good relations with local people. I had never imagined that I would be looted," said Li Qingji, a man with Hong Kong citizenship.

Li said he and his wife woke up at night when local people broke into the hotel where they were staying. Finding nowhere to hide they ran toward the sea shore, where they found a boat and stayed on board the entire night.

"Watching towering fires from the boat, fleeing the place was the only thing I had in mind," he said.

With the help of the Chinese Embassy in Papua New Guinea, most of the Chinese in the Solomon Islands managed to find safety in the local police headquarters. Most then left for Papua New Guineaon charter flights rented by the Chinese government.

On Monday, China sent chartered planes to bring the Chinese home from Papua New Guinea.

"This is the first time I have come back to the homeland. I never expected I would return under such circumstances," Li said bitterly.

With the arrival of the second group of 310 overseas Chinese evacuees from the Solomon Islands early Tuesday morning, China announced that it had completed its rescue of overseas Chinese from Solomon Islands.

A total of 325 Chinese people were brought back home safe and sound.

"It was fortunate that we had no casualties in the disaster considering all the property damage," Ma Zhongming, whose two shops were set ablaze by the rioters. He estimates his losses to be 2.5 million yuan (312,000 US dollars).

"The government's quick response helped us survive the disaster," he said.

Ma said he felt the rescue work had been conducted quite orderly.

"Old people, children and women left first. There was no disagreement with such arrangements. We all believed that the Chinese government must have ways to help us out."

A special work group, consisting of officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Public Security, the Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs of the State Council, and the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, remains in Guangzhou helping with the resettlement mission. Enditem

Editor: Luan Shanglin

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