Laws Urged to Protect Citizens Overseas

Lawmakers are calling for new legislation to better protect Chinese citizens traveling and residing abroad amid a growing number of new security threats and Chinese going outside the country.

A number of deputies to the ongoing session of the National People's Congress have submitted the proposals.

Tong Haibao, a local procurator in east China's Anhui Province, said the legal framework "would help China speed up the ratification of some multilateral treaties to protect its overseas citizens' safety and interest through judicial and diplomatic means."

The more bilateral extradition agreements are signed, the more effective consular service will be to protect the citizens overseas, he said.

Tong began to pay attention to China's consular protection and services when one of his overseas relatives encountered problems and looked for help from the Chinese government.

He then found out that his relative's experience is not an isolated case.

"In recent years, we often heard news of Chinese citizens overseas being attacked or facing difficulties," he said, referring to the latest road accident in Egypt, which killed 14 Hong Kong tourists, and the attack on three Chinese engineers in Pakistan in February.

Tong noted that it is crucial to fully strengthen a nation in order for Chinese diplomatic and consular missions abroad to offer improved services.

Deputy Niu Huilan from east China's Shandong Province shared Tong's views, suggesting the legislation affecting citizens abroad should be based on precaution and aimed at coping with the growing number of new security threats and enhancing the early emergency warning system.

The deputies have echoed Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing's pledge to do his best to protect Chinese citizens abroad in his annual press conference last Tuesday.

He suggested Chinese citizens learn and follow local laws when traveling overseas, keeping in mind the phone numbers of Chinese embassies and consulates in foreign countries.

Just 200,000 Chinese citizens went abroad in 1978, while in 2003 the figure rose to 20.2 million, 100 times what it was 25 years ago.

Last year, more than 31 million Chinese citizens made trips abroad, and China's embassies and consulates handled nearly 30,000 consular cases.

China's embassies and consulates have already handled a range of cases so far this year.

Three Chinese business people were killed by armed robbers in South Africa within 36 hours last month; another one was killed in January in the year.

China appealed to Chinese citizens in South Africa to keep alert and take necessary defensive measures in the wake of the incidents.

More than 40 armed robbery cases against Chinese citizens took place in South Africa last year, resulting in eight fatalities, according to official statistics.

(China Daily March 14, 2006)

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