Many Chinese netizens have taken to China’s Twitter equivalent, Weibo, to express their concern over the decision by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to repatriate overseas Chinese.
On Jan. 31, the spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, announced that Beijing will soon charter civilian airplanes to “bring back” overseas Chinese nationals who are from Hubei province, particularly those from Wuhan, according to an announcement on the ministry’s website. Hua cited “practical challenges” faced by Chinese overseas as the reason for the government’s move, without elaborating further.
The planes will fly the overseas Chinese to Wuhan, Hua said.
The escalating coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, a city in central China’s Hubei Province. Health authorities in the city have said they suspect the 2019-nCoV strain originated from a local wet market where wild animals, such as porcupines and snakes, were sold.
Now, all regions in China have now reported patients testing positive for the virus after Tibet recorded its first case on Jan. 30. Outside of China, more than 18 countries and regions have also reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including the United States, Italy, Germany, Canada, Finland, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
In the comment sections of state-run media People’s Daily’s official Weibo account, many netizens expressed doubts over the ministry’s decision.
“Back to Wuhan??” several queried.
Some netizens expressed doubts that those overseas are willing to return to Wuhan.
A netizen from China’s megacity of Chonqing wrote: “They don’t want to return to Wuhan, right?”
Other netizens expressed relief that the regime was not sending people close to where they live.
Many governments around the world have successfully evacuated some of their citizens out of Wuhan, including South Korea, Japan, the United States, and Singapore.
At the same time, multiple international airlines, including American Airlines, British Airways, and Air Canada, have suspended their flights to China. Italy is the first country to announce a freeze on all air traffic with China.