China is in the process of evacuating 449 of its citizens from conflict-hit Yemen with the help of Chinese navy warships, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
They will head to Djibouti, an African country located across the strait in the Gulf of Aden from Yemen, according to a statement released by the ministry on Monday night.
China evacuated 122 of its nationals from Yemen to Djibouti on Sunday.
A total of 571 will return to Beijing as soon as possible with the help of the Chinese embassy in Djibouti, the statement said.
Chinese navy spokesperson Liang Yang said on Monday that also on board the People’s Liberation Army Navy warship Linyi were two non-Chinese employed by Chinese enterprises.
It later emerged that they are from Egypt and Romania.
Linyi picked up the 124 people, including seven women and a child at noon on Sunday from Aden Harbor of Yemen and arrived in Djibouti Harbor eight hours later, Liang said.
The Chinese government on Sunday redirected navy vessels performing anti-pirate missions in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters for the evacuation.
The fleet is comprised of missile frigates Linyi and Weifang, and supply ship Weishanhu.
“Chinese Ambassador Tian Qi and a necessary number of embassy staff are now holding their posts in Yemen,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing.
“They have maintained close communication with all relevant parties and made all-out efforts to help the remaining 400-plus Chinese in Yemen withdraw safely and in good order,” she added.
The Chinese government places great importance on the safety of Chinese citizens and entities in Yemen, and it has wasted no time in withdrawing these citizens since the security situation in Yemen abruptly deteriorated on Thursday, according to the spokeswoman.
Yemen is suffering from political unrest and clashes between Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has fled the country.
A Saudi-led coalition has been launching air strikes on Houthi positions in Yemen since Thursday.
Hua also thanked Yemen, Djibouti and other parties for offering help in the withdrawal of Chinese nationals.
This is the first time that Chinese naval combat ships have stopped at a foreign harbor to carry out an evacuation, said Zhang Junshe, a researcher with the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Naval Military Studies Research Institute.
In February of 2011, missile frigate Xuzhou, which was also performing escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters, was sent close to Libya to support and protect ships evacuating Chinese stranded in the country.
In a sign of China’s growing role in protecting international peace and stability, the PLA Navy has dispatched ships to participate in escort, evacuation, search and rescue, and disaster relief missions many times in recent years.
It has sent 19 naval escort squads to the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters since 2008; a hospital ship was sent to the typhoon-hit Philippines for medical relief in 2013; warships were sent in 2014 to escort maritime transportation of Syrian chemical weapons; and navy vessels joined in the search operation of the missing Malaysian airliner MH370.
Story compiled with the information from Xinhua News Agency.