Embassy in talks as 32 Chinese held in Manila

Updated: 2014-02-13 07:52

By Mo Jingxi (China Daily)

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The Chinese embassy in the Philippines continued negotiations with the Philippines' Bureau of Immigration on Wednesday over 32 Chinese detained for overstaying and work without documentation in the Southeast Asian country.

Thirty-five suspects were arrested on Tuesday afternoon in a shopping mall in Manila, but three were later confirmed to be Chinese-Filipinos and were released.

The Chinese embassy in Manila said that 10 Chinese with proper documentation were later released on Tuesday evening.

"We call for Chinese citizens in the Philippines or other foreign countries to abide by the local laws and regulations so as to avoid risks to their safety, rights and interests," said Zhang Hua, spokesman for the embassy.

It was the third raid in two months that Philippine authorities have made at shopping malls where Chinese businessmen gather.

Last month, 28 Chinese were detained in Metro Manila for allegedly overstaying and working without documentation. Another 77 were detained at two shopping malls in Manila's Chinatown during an operation in December.

Chen Qinghong, a Philippine studies researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the detentions are part of Philippine President Benigno Aquino's efforts to strengthen law enforcement.

However, Jia Duqiang, an expert on South Asia studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the frequency of such incidents "must be partially related to the existing tensions in the relationship between Beijing and Manila".

Relations between China and the Philippines have been strained over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Jia said that if the detention cases cannot be handled properly, public opinion in China might turn against the Philippines.

A survey released by Philippine pollster Social Weather Stations on Monday showed that 81 percent of Filipinos support their government's decision in January last year to file a case against China with an international arbitration court over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Aquino told the Philippine Star newspaper in a text message, "We in the administration are elated that 81 percent of our population supports our position."

The survey was commissioned by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and conducted among 1,550 respondents from Dec 11 to 16. It showed most Filipinos' strong distrust of China, with a distrust rating of 17 percent.

Chen said the poll partially reflects the political deadlock between the two countries, but said the sample size was insufficient to represent Filipinos.

"The survey was conducted at a time when Beijing-Manila relations are strained, so the results could be quite different if it was carried out at another time," Jia said.

Chen said that while the detentions may affect personal exchanges between the two countries, Manila urgently needs to show increased sincerity in improving the deteriorating bilateral relations instead of making "extremist" speeches.

Jia said, "Manila should seriously consider whether this flare-up of national emotions against China is conducive to a peaceful resolution of the South China Sea disputes."

Contact the writer at mojingxi@chinadaily.com.cn