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Syrian conflict

The last Hongkonger in Damascus is safe after US-led air strikes on Syria, Chinese embassy says

Xie Lixia weathers military action, just as she has done over the last five decades

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 April, 2018, 9:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 April, 2018, 9:08pm

Xie Lixia, the only Hongkonger living in the Syrian capital of Damascus, was safe on Saturday after a series of US-led air strikes on the country, a Chinese embassy official said.

The official also said he visited the 79-year-old, who has lived in Syria for over half a century, the day before the air strikes.

“I visited Xie ... and extended my regards to her [on Friday],” embassy political counsellor Ma Xuliang said.

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Ma said that after the air strikes embassy staff contacted “83 ethnic Chinese” in Syria, “no matter they are Chinese passport holders or not”.

“Xie was among them who was confirmed to be safe and secure,” he said.

Xie was 16 in 1955 when she went to study engineering at Wuhan University in Hebei province, where she met “Yakubu”, one of the first batch of three Syrian students sent to study in China in 1957, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.

The couple married in 1963 and moved to Syria the next year, raising four children, the report said.

In 2015, Xinhua quoted Xie as saying that she was discouraged by the departure of many Chinese from Syria after US threats to bomb the country in 2013.

“I can’t remember any moment over the past few decades when there has been fewer Chinese people living in Damascus than now,” the mother-of-four was quoted as saying.

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The report said she had lived through five wars while living in Syria, including the 1967 six-day war, when Israel hit a Syrian airbase where her husband was serving.

Her fears were heightened because she was pregnant at the time, she said.