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For Chinese evacuated from Ukraine, safety costs a pretty penny

Bucharest, Romania – China began evacuating its citizens from Ukraine within days of Russia invading the country on February 24.

Last week, China’s foreign ministry said it had completed the evacuation effort, getting more than 5,000 Chinese nationals out of the war-torn country.

But what Beijing has described as a triumphant success – the state-run Global Times tabloid reported the evacuation had concluded “perfectly” – proved to be a costly endeavour for those involved, putting evacuees under significant financial and mental stress.

The Chinese government charged evacuees, many of them students, about 18,000 yuan ($2,830) each to board charter flights out of Romania and Poland to various Chinese cities.

Once in China, they had to undergo between 14 and 28 days of quarantine in designated hotels, also at their own expense. Faced with bills of more than $5,000 in some cases, some evacuees said they had even reconsidered their plans to return home.

In Bucharest, some Chinese citizens signed a petition on yibaochina.com calling on Beijing to subsidise the flights or provide accommodation for evacuees to stay in Romania.

“It’s unreasonably expensive. We are students,” one woman who was boarding a charter flight from Otopeni, near Bucharest, to Hangzhou last month, told Al Jazeera, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Including the costs of quarantine, which vary depending on the hotel and city, evacuees could expect to shoulder costs in excess of $5,000 – close to China’s median disposable income per capita, which reached $5,520 in 2021, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to questions from Al Jazeera about the costs of evacuating citizens from Ukraine.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on March 28 that the country’s evacuation mission had been completed “for now”, with 5,200 Chinese citizens evacuated to countries neighbouring Ukraine.

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