An official from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that the number of Chinese consular officers assisting and protecting citizens overseas is insufficient.
The Southern Metropolis Daily reported today that only several hundred consular protection officers around the world are serving Chinese citizens, which means on average, one Chinese consular officer needs to serve more than 190,000 Chinese citizens overseas.
This ratio is 13 times higher than Russia’s, and 15 times more than Japan’s, the report said. In some Chinese embassies and consulates, there is only one consular protection officer to protect all citizens in that country.
In the last year, Chinese consulates in total handled more than 40,000 cases – or more than 110 cases daily – the report said.
According to Huang Ping, Director General of the Department of Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, consular officers’ work overload has become a severe problem. And the main reason is that the total amount of overseas trips keeps increasing whereas the number of consular officers, especially those conducting consular assistance and protection, remains low.
More than 98 million overseas trips were recorded by Chinese nationals in the past 12 months, and the number has increased by an average rate of more than 10 million a year for four years in a row. Meanwhile, about 20,000 Chinese companies are located in more than 180 countries and regions.
According to the Department of Consular Affairs, this year Chinese citizens will make more than 100 million trips abroad. And by 2020, the number will increase to 150 million.
In 2006, the Department of Consular Affairs established the division for consular protection for the first time, specifically to coordinate work to protect the legitimate rights and interests of overseas Chinese citizens.
Wang Yizhou, the Associate Dean of the School of International Studies of Peking University, said that although consular protection had the largest staff quotas in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “the situation of consular protection in China is like a pony trying to drag a huge carriage”.