February 28, 2020 13:49
One region in China's Heilongjiang Province apparently notified residents to immediately report any Korean or Japanese nationals who entered China secretly. They will immediately be sent to quarantine facilities. One apartment in Jiangsu Province where a Korean lives has been sealed off to ensure that he does not leave the home until the mandatory 14-day quarantine passes. This is the same treatment Chinese authorities imposed on residents of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic. More than 100 Koreans have been forcefully quarantined at airports in China over the last two days. Officials in Sichuan Province faced a barrage of criticism from the Chinese public after when they allowed Koreans to enter after only taking their temperature. More Koreans are expected to face such persecution abroad.
The Foreign Ministry here did summon the Chinese ambassador to lodge a protest, but he blamed the regional governments and denied that the central government had anything to do with it -- a likely story in a dictatorship like China where the Communist Party micromanages everything. The same claim was offered during China's unofficial boycott of Korean products and services over the THAAD spat. The central government simply blamed regional authorities for launching scurrilous health-and-safety checks that eventually forced Lotte’s entire operations there to shut down.
The moment he arrived, this same new Chinese ambassador pressured the government not to block visitors from his country. Cue a chorus of voices in Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling party sucking up to Beijing, calling China a "friend in need" and urging Koreans not to shun Chinese visitors. The justice minister, who is in charge of immigration, boasted that the Chinese government expressed "special gratitude." Perhaps Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling party were hoping for a back rub and a hug, but that is surely naïve when China's national interest is concerned. Is the Chinese government urging its people to help Korea like a "friend in need?" Countries have no friends, only more or less useful acquaintances
One state news outlet in China said Thursday that "quarantine is more important than diplomacy." It added that the Chinese people would not forgive a resurgence of infections caused by letting Korean and other foreign visitors come freely. China is not alone in taking such steps. But for this government even currying a little sorry favor with Beijing still seems to be more important than the safety and wellbeing of the public. Korea and Japan are the only countries in the world where higher priority is being placed on diplomacy than public safety. The Korean government did it so that Chinese President Xi Jinping would visit and give it a boost, and Japan wants to keep the Summer Olympics from being canceled. But at what cost?
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com