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China must protect citizens in wake of Mekong killings

By Xin Jingping (People's Daily Overseas Edition)

15:44, October 19, 2011

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

Twelve Chinese crewmembers were killed on the waters of the Mekong River within the Golden Triangle on Oct. 5, which has astonished the Chinese people. Apart from firmly requiring related countries to investigate the Mekong killings and locate the actual murderers, China is also facing a tougher task to ensure the security of the Mekong River and prevent the recurrence of similar killings

Pirates have often appeared along the Mekong River over recent years and occasionally hijacked ships. Some even say that the prime shipping channel of the Mekong River is quite likely to become the Southeastern Asia's own "Gulf of Aden," referring to the pirate-infested body of water off the coast of Somalia.

The "Golden Triangle” was once a notorious paradise of drug production and trafficking because of its complicated political governance structure that was rooted in history. Thanks to the intervention and joint crackdowns by the international community, drug-related crimes in the region are not as rampant as they once were.

However, pirate activities along the river have been on the rise, meaning that the problems in the region have not been eliminated and have even started threatening lives of common people as well as the normal economic transactions between countries near the region.

Facing new security challenges, China and the three other related countries should further deepen their international cooperation and explore new social security management patterns in order to protect the lives of the citizens of China and other countries in the region.

In 2007, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the Guide to China's Consular Protection and Services Overseas, a detailed document for overseas Chinese citizens seeking timely consular protection and services.

China has shouldered its national responsibility and conducted several large-scale evacuations of its overseas citizens from danger zones since 2007. However, consular protection can only solve predictable threats and relatively slow dangers and is unable to solve unexpected threats and acute dangers. The Mekong River tragedy was a sudden incident, and cannot be solved through diplomatic measures, such as consular protection.

China can take the following measures to ensure the safety of its overseas citizens. First, it should, if necessary, send police attaches to countries involved. China cannot expect the police of countries involved to handle organized criminal activity that threatens the safety of overseas Chinese citizens. Chinese citizens were frequently killed in South Africa before 2006, so China assigned police attaches there after consulting with the South African government. As the "Golden Triangle" occupies a key location in an important trade waterway between China and Southeast Asia, it is in the national interests of China to ensure safe navigation along the waterway.

Second, China could carry out armed convoys according to international laws in the international regions where pirates and drug smugglers are fierce after negotiating with the related countries. Like the Chinese Navy's armed convoys in the Gulf of Aden, such kind of convoys could guarantee the safety of the international trade routes and protect the citizens of various countries from being hurt by criminals.

Third, China should establish a risk-assessment system for the security of its perimeter and other overseas regions as soon as possible, timely inform the related countries of the potential risks and require them to carefully fulfill the responsibilities of investigation and cooperation.

In 2008, China issued the National Report on China Participating in Economic Cooperation of Sub-zones of the Mekong River, which expressed that China would deepen its cooperation with the related countries in the economic, trade, transportation, resources, anti-drug enforcement and other areas.

The banditry of the Mekong River and Golden Triangle has turned into a recurring illness for governments of many countries. In order to protect the citizens of China in these regions, China should never take a casual attitude at any time.

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