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China Denies Discriminating Against Mexicans in Efforts to Fight H1N1 Flu

  • Stephanie Ho

China is denying that it is discriminating against Mexicans, in its efforts to fight the swine influenza A-H1N1, after Chinese authorities detained and quarantined 70 Mexican travelers.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu issued a written statement Monday saying his country is not discriminating against Mexicans.

He says China has quarantined all the passengers on board a flight from Mexico to Shanghai, Thursday, in which one passenger was later confirmed with swine flu. The Chinese spokesman says the measure is not aimed at Mexican citizens, but meant to protect public health and prevent a swine flu epidemic in China.

Ma says China understands Mexico's concern and values its friendly relations with the Latin American country. But, at the same time, he urged the Mexican government to maintain an "objective and calm" attitude on the issue.

The Chinese comments sharply contrast with the account given by Mexico's ambassador to Beijing, Jorge Guajardo, who says at least 70 Mexicans have been detained, throughout China.

The Mexicans in quarantine in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong arrived on flights from North America.

Sunday, the Mexican ambassador went to a Beijing hotel where 10 Mexicans are being held, but was not allowed to see them.

"In many instances, we have gotten reports that they are being quarantined for the sole fact that they present a Mexican passport, whether or not they came from Mexico, whether or not they have been in contact with someone else from Mexico. It's just the fact they present a Mexican passport," he said.

Guajardo says China is the only country in the world where Mexicans have faced such forced quarantine.

"I have to emphasize that the World Health Organization does not recommend these types of actions, that no other country in the world is implementing these types of actions," he said.

Sunday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon denounced discriminatory measures against Mexicans because of swine flu. He did not mention any specific country, but pointed out that "Mexico did not try to hide its outbreak, like other countries have in the past." China was criticized for initially denying it had a problem during the 2003 outbreak of SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

Meanwhile, Mexico is chartering an airplane to go to China to bring its citizens back home.

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