WHILE public outcry over the treatment of child asylum seekers has seen US President Donald Trump backtrack on a controversial hardline immigration policy, an overwhelming majority of Chinese netizens have said they are against the idea of their country accepting refugees.
The poll, which began circulating on World Refugee Day Wednesday on the local social media platform Weibo, found that 97.7 of almost 9000 respondents said they are opposed to China resettling foreign refugees, state newspaper the Global Times reported.
A similar week-long poll conducted last June reportedly found that 97.3 percent of 210,000 people.
“China did not implement the family planning policy for decades to make room for refugees,” wrote one Weibo user, a comment which was liked by hundreds of other users according to the Global Times.
During a visit to China earlier this month, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) chief Filippo Grandi said that the world’s most populous country is capable of doing more to address the root causes of displacement and assist with the world’s refugee crises through assisting economic development.
“UNHCR and China have been cooperating for 40 years. During that time China has become a major actor on the international stage,” said Grandi. “The global refugee issue has also grown bigger and more complicated as factors causing people to flee are increasingly mixed.”
“We hope that China can invest some of those resources directly in countries hosting large numbers of refugees and displaced people. In doing so, it can empower refugees and their host communities in a win-win situation for all,” he said.
According to the UNHCR, China’s contribution to refugee programs globally increased from US$2.8 million in 2016 to US$12.5 million thus far this year. It joined the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in 2016, signalling a greater willingness to cooperate with the international community on migration issues.
Nevertheless, unlike most large nations China does not have a refugee resettlement program. As of the end of 2015, there were only several hundred ‘people of concern’ to the UNHCR in China from Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq and Liberia, in addition to roughly 300,000 Vietnamese primarily of Chinese descent.
Chinese Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR Yao Chen said this week that she remained “committed to the refugee cause for as long as I’m needed … but I long for the day I become ‘unemployed’ when there are no longer refugees in the world.”
Chen has previously attracted widespread public criticism for her high profile visits to refugees within China and abroad.
“Reports about criminal activities and the turbulence that refugees are said to have created in Europe … alarm the Chinese,” Yun Sun of the Brookings Institute told Foreign Policy last year. “Apparently, they believe refugees from the Middle East are nothing but trouble.”
“China is also a developing country and so, almost subconsciously, does not believe it has the inherent responsibility,” she said.