China is the second-largest contributor of police forces among the permanent members of the UN Security Council for peacekeeping efforts around the world.
A senior Chinese official told China Daily that there are about 190 Chinese police officers serving under the UN flag in Kosovo, Liberia, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Sudan and Haiti; the United States has some 340.
United Nations peacekeepers, drawn from around the world, help keep social order and train local police forces in the country they serve.
The Chinese peacekeepers who have fulfilled their mission in the recent Haitian presidential election will probably be given the task of guarding voting centres in the country's forthcoming parliamentary election, said Guo Baoshan, deputy director general of the international co-operation department of the Ministry of Public Security.
He said in an exclusive interview that a nationwide examination to select a new batch of reserve officers would end this weekend. It aims to meet the rising UN demand for police forces.
About 600 police officers who have passed preliminary selection tests by local police authorities are sitting for the examination at the China Peacekeeping Police Training Centre in Langfang, a city 40 kilometres southeast of Beijing.
He said the purpose of the exam was to set up rosters from which present and future vacancies for UN police peacekeepers would be filled.
"We have an empty roster now," he said. "Almost all the 600 on the list have been dispatched once or twice."
The official said the Chinese Government "enthusiastically supports" UN peacekeeping operations, but the forces are stretched thin and would require substantial additional resources.
"We had no choice but to turn down the UN request for peacekeepers for Sierra Leone in January because we were short of hands."
The prerequisites for the applicants include:
must be at least 25 years old, and have worked as police officers for more than five years.
must be able to communicate in English, and be familiar with the relevant UN rules and regulations.
must be physically and mentally healthy and be skilled in shooting and driving.
Guo told China Daily that only a small number of candidates pass the highly-competitive examination.
"We set high standards. In our 2004 examination, only 50 to 60 of a total of 500 candidates, or about one out of every 10, passed."
In addition, successful candidates attend three-month training classes at the centre on various subjects including languages, computers, shooting, driving, geography, mine-sweeping, international politics, human rights and diplomatic protocol.
At the end of the training period, they have to take yet another rigorous examination conducted by the UN peacekeeping department.
At this stage, more than 70 per cent of Chinese officers pass the final recruitment test, the official said.
The government covers all expenses for exams and training, but the UN pays peacekeepers allowances ranging from US$100 to US$180 per day when they are out on duty, Guo said.
He stressed that once dispatched, Chinese peacekeepers work as UN employees. "They don't receive any orders from the Chinese Government while being out on duty."
Ministry figures show 634 police peacekeepers have served the UN since China dispatched the first team in 2000. "All provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions across China have been contributors to the operations," he said.
He stressed that China is proud of the fact that "no Chinese peacekeeper has violated UN discipline or sustained injuries on duty."
Terms for Chinese peacekeepers vary from 8 months to one year. Once they return, they go back to their former departments and are more likely to be promoted because of their experience overseas.
Source: China Daily