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Beijing Review Exclusive
Special> Earthquake in Haiti> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: January 25, 2010 NO. 4 JANUARY 28, 2010
Assistance from a Distance
China joins international relief efforts in Haiti with a powerful sense of mission

Solemn return

HEROES' RETURN: Honor guards and family members escort the remains of the eight Chinese peacekeeping officers killed in the Haiti earthquake after their arrival at the Beijing Capital International Airport on January 19 (JIN LIANGKUAI)

Mournful residents stood in silence along Beijing's streets as the motorcade carrying the coffins of the eight Chinese police officers killed in Haiti drove by on January 19.

Of the eight Chinese victims, four were officers of China's peacekeeping police force in Haiti, while the others were members of a delegation from China's Ministry of Public Security on a trip to Haiti for peacekeeping consultations.

China, Haiti and the world at large will always remember their sacrifices, said Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at a "homecoming ceremony" for the Chinese officers at the airport.

China, he added, will remain committed to the cause that they died for, and will continue making efforts to "ensure social harmony and safeguard world peace," he added.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also acknowledged the Chinese officers' sacrifices. "They gave their lives for peace in Haiti," Ban said in offering his condolences, "and made valuable contributions to the cause of UN peacekeeping."

A SILENT TRIBUTE: Chinese rescue team members as well as officials from China's Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Foreign Affairs stand in a silent salute to fallen Chinese peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince on January 16 (XING GUANGLI)

This sense of national grief reached its apex on January 20 when all nine members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee—including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao—attended a funeral service for the eight fallen officers at the Babaoshan Cemetery in west Beijing.

At the ceremony, broadcast live on Chinese television and major news websites, the leaders appeared in black suits with white flowers pinned to their chests. They bowed three times toward the coffins of the police officers, each of which was decorated with white chrysanthemums—flowers traditionally used in Chinese funerals—and covered by the Chinese national flag.

While mourning the deaths of the police officers, the public at large has recognized the contributions of Chinese peacekeeping police, People's Daily said in an editorial.

China formally announced that it would contribute police officers to UN peacekeeping missions in 1999. Since it dispatched its first peacekeeping police team to East Timor in 2000, the country has sent 1,569 police officers on seven UN missions.

Among these, 1,000 have been sent to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti in eight rotations since October 2004. The current team, deployed in 2009, consisted of 125 anti-riot police officers as well as 17 civil police officers.

China's responsibility in peacekeeping is expected to increase along with the country's rise as a major global player, People's Daily said.

Though China does not have diplomatic relations with Port-au-Prince, the assistance was provided with the strong spirit of humanitarianism, Hu said while meeting with visiting Austrian President Heinz Fischer in Beijing on January 20. China, he added, is willing to continue supporting Haiti's earthquake relief and post-quake reconstruction along with other countries, he said.

The Chinese Government, too, showed great concern about the safety of Chinese nationals staying in Haiti in the aftermath of the quake. To this end, Beijing has offered timely consular protection services for these individuals, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu.

Shortly after the earthquake broke out, the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of Consular Affairs has instructed China's commercial development bureau in Haiti to contact and assist Chinese citizens who had previously been living in the country.

For example, it located 11 employees of the Chinese telecom company ZTE Corp. working in Haiti, thus facilitating their move to safety in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Apart from the eight police officers, no further Chinese causalities have since been reported in Haiti.

"We are obliged to provide consular protection to Chinese nationals in Haiti," Ma said, "no matter how they got there."

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