Mexico to fetch held citizens

May 5, 2009 12:00 am

, BEIJING, May 5 – Mexico prepared Tuesday to fly home dozens of nationals quarantined in China under controversial anti swine-flu measures, as Beijing faced renewed criticism over the isolation of 22 Canadians.

Mexican travellers held at a Beijing hotel said they were told by their embassy to be ready to leave Tuesday, ending an enforced isolation that Mexico charged was unfairly targeting its citizens.

"We were told to be ready to go. We are just awaiting word," Gustavo Carrillo, a Mexican businessman, told AFP.

Mexican diplomats have complained to China that 70 of their countrymen were placed under seven-day isolation across China despite showing no signs of the (A)H1N1 virus, which was infected more people in Mexico than anywhere else.

China, meanwhile, sent a chartered plane to Mexico to fetch 200 of its citizens stranded by the flu crisis there, China Southern Airlines said in a statement, after the two countries agreed to a repatriation deal.

The plane was due back in China on Wednesday, it said.

However, Canada has now asked Beijing to explain the quarantine of 22 Canadian students, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said on Monday.

The group of students was met by provincial health officials when they disembarked from a plane in the northeastern city of Changchun, and their temperatures were taken, according to Canada’s public broadcaster.

Even though they showed no symptoms of infection from the virus and had no fever, they were told they would be quarantined for seven days at a local hotel, the CBC said, citing an email from one of the students.

Cannon said he had directed consular officials to check in on the students who travelled to China to learn Mandarin.

"I’ve asked them to seek clarification from Chinese authorities on the situation," Cannon said.

AFP attempts to reach Mexican and Canadian embassy officials in Beijing were not immediately successful.

Canada has recorded more than 100 cases of swine flu — the third highest figure after Mexico and the United States.

China on Monday denied discriminating against Mexicans with its strict flu measures.

"The relevant measures are not directed at Mexican citizens and are not discriminatory," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.

The statement asked Mexico to be "objective and calm."

Some of the quarantined Mexicans had travelled to China aboard the same flight that carried an infected Mexican man — Asia’s first confirmed swine flu case — now in a Hong Kong hospital.

But the Mexican embassy says others arrived on separate flights and were singled out for their nationality.

Quarantined Mexicans also complained to AFP they were not being given enough information from the Chinese side about their fate.


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