China Power

China Warns Citizens to Stay Away From Philippines

Beijing sees recent attacks on Chinese citizens as part of a rising tide of anti-China sentiment in the Philippines.

China Warns Citizens to Stay Away From Philippines
Credit: Philippines China butterflies image via Shutterstock

On September 11, an 18-year-old Chinese national was kidnapped by gunmen while he managed his family’s store in the southern Philippines. In response to the incident, which the Chinese government reads as part of a larger anti-Chinese trend, China’s Foreign Ministry issued a travel alert advising Chinese citizens not to travel to the Philippines and warning any Chinese who do visit the Philippines to take extra precautions.

The kidnapping of Li Peizhi, who is often described as a “teenage businessman” in Chinese media, remains unresolved. The mayor of the city where Li was kidnapped tied the crime to Abu Sayyaf militants, who have also kidnapped two Germans and an Australian in the last three years. However, many in China (including the government) are seeing this as part of a larger escalation of violent crimes targeting Chinese citizens. On Saturday, another Chinese citizen was severely injured by gunmen in Bulacan Province, to the north of Manila.

Both those incidents follow a foiled plot to bomb the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and attack the Chinese embassy in Manila. On September 1, three suspects were arrested for planning a bomb attack at the airport. The men also admitted to planning to carry out attacks on the Chinese embassy and the DMCI construction company, which employs Chinese workers. After their attacks, the suspects wanted to release a manifesto declaring in part, “It’s time to show China and the international community… that we are ready to fight for our rights and sovereignty even if this means sacrificing our lives.” In addition to sovereignty disputes, however, the men were apparently angry at the “monopolistic business practices” of Filipino-Chinese businessmen, according to Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

China is “severely concerned” about the incidents, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said in a press conference. The Chinese embassy in Manila “has repeatedly lodged representations with the Philippine police, requesting them to solve these cases as soon as possible and bring perpetrators to justice,” Hong said. China has also asked the Philippines to “take concrete measure to safeguard the security” of Chinese citizens in the Philippines. China is concerned that rising anti-China sentiments in the Philippines coupled with what the Foreign Ministry called a “worsened security situation” in the country as a whole (especially the south) will spell disaster for Chinese nationals visiting or living in the Philippines.

A piece in the Global Times (also picked up by People’s Daily) spelled out these concerns directly in an article titled “Chinese targeted by Philippine nationalism.” The piece said that it was inevitable for Chinese to connect incidents like Li’s kidnapping “to the escalation in tension between Beijing and Manila.” GT accused the Philippines government of being “a major agitator of a nationalist and anti-China sentiment … which can easily turn into extremism.” The article even labelled the Philippines “a quasi-rogue state” thanks to the combination of “poor social governance, an anti-China sentiment and a Western-style democratic system where nationalism can foment wantonly.”

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Chinese media outlets similarly blamed the Vietnamese government for violent anti-China riots in May of this year, at the height of tensions over the placement of a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson accused Hanoi of having “condoned beating, smashing, looting and arson conducted by a few Vietnamese against companies and personnel of China and other countries.”