A Chinese naval frigate has evacuated 225 foreign citizens from war-torn Yemen, its foreign ministry said, marking the first time that China’s military has helped other countries evacuate their people during an international crisis.
Ten different nationalities were among the evacuees who were picked up from Aden, Yemen’s second city, and transported to Djibouti, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Thursday.
China says it is the first time its military has rescued foreign nationals from a danger zone.
The special rescue effort by the Chinese government to evacuate foreign citizens embody the government’s people-first principle and the spirit of internationalism and humanitarianism, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a press briefing on Friday.
Linyi missile frigate, carrying 225 people from 10 countries — Pakistan, Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen — departed Yemen for Djibouti before noon on Thursday and arrived after nearly eight hours of sailing.
About 176 of the evacuated nationals by a Chinese frigate from Aden in Yemen to Djibouti are Pakistan, 29 from Ethiopia, while the rest are from Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen.
Chinese government also helped eight citizens from Romania, India, Egypt and some other countries.
Earlier China has evacuated 571 of its own nationals, along with eight foreigners who worked for Chinese companies.
A Pakistani evacuee known as Nawaz told Xinhua upon arrival that “I have had a hard time in Yemen … I want to thank China for its help in evacuating non-Chinese people.”
The 48-year-old man, who has been working in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa for 15 years, missed the Pakistani evacuation on Sunday. “When I saw the (Pakistani) plane leaving, I felt desperate,” he said, “but when I know the Chinese military vessel may come to the Port of Aden, I was excited though I’m not sure at that time whether the Chinese vessel would receive foreigners or not.”
“But I believe China will help us this time, as the old friend has always done before,” he said.
Violence has been spreading across Yemen since last year when Shi’ite Houthi fighters seized the capital, Sanaa, and effectively removed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
A Saudi-led coalition has hit the rebels with air strikes over the past week.
A spokeswoman for Germany’s foreign ministry confirmed that China had evacuated three Germans to Djibouti, adding that Berlin was “very thankful to the Chinese government for its support”.
According to Xinhua report, Chinese military’s operation at the edge of one of the world’s most volatile hotspots came at the request of foreign countries and was based on the spirit of humanitarianism. It rightfully deserves credit, and is yet more evidence of the Chinese military’s growing contribution to world affairs.
“China has been keen to learn from the experience of other countries on how to evacuate people, especially after Libya,” said one senior Western diplomat in Beijing. “It’s good to see China taking more of an interest in this.”
China also sent a state-of-the-art hospital ship to the Philippines in 2013 after one of the world’s biggest typhoons killed thousands.