China has asked its citizens in Israel who want to return home to purchase tickets for themselves on commercial flights even as other governments are providing assistance to their citizens via chartered, military or the remaining commercial flights.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, said at the regular press briefing on Monday, "Commercial flights between China and Israel are still in operation. We advise local Chinese nationals to fly back to China on commercial flights as soon as possible."
Chinese citizens stranded in Israel after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas turned to social media for homebound travel assistance as governments from Argentina to Taiwan and the United States helped their citizens leave.
Washington even arranged for a cruise ship to transport people to Cyprus, where they could arrange further travel.
Taiwan announced on Tuesday that it has helped safely evacuate 156 Taiwanese citizens from Israel while 147 citizens have chosen to remain there.
On the Chinese social media platform, Xiaohongshu, a user called "Deep No Blue" posted, "Are there any Chinese leaving Tel Aviv on the 9th?" She said that Hainan Airlines tickets she and a friend purchased were canceled. When they called the Chinese Embassy to ask how to leave, they were told to find a way on their own.
China's state media Global Times said that Hainan Airlines had canceled flights between Tel Aviv and Shanghai on Oct. 9 because of the conflict.
Deep No Blue's post went viral online but was soon deleted. In the newer post, she said she had left Israel safely on an Emirates Airlines flight and listed some tips for self-evacuation. Emirates is the national carrier of Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates.
Some netizens criticized Deep No Blue in the comments.
"You are the one who slandered the embassy," wrote one. Another posted, "Why did you bother the embassy if you could buy your own tickets? Your last post deserved to be deleted."
The Chinese Embassy in Israel on Friday told Chinese citizens in Israel to "overcome paralyzing thoughts, enhance risk awareness, and effectively strengthen security precautions" in a message that included contact telephone numbers for the embassy, Israeli police and a medical hotline.
China's attitude toward the evacuation of its citizens appears to have enraged some Chinese expatriates in Israel.
"Warnings, suggestions, full assistance, but no action to evacuate overseas Chinese," a commentator with the online name "Wen Wu" said on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of X, which was formerly known as Twitter.
Multiple screenshots circulating online show that Chinese students in Israel have repeatedly asked the embassy staff in a WeChat group whether there was an evacuation plan but had not received satisfactory answers.
A user in the group said, "I didn't know until I went abroad that Wolf Warriors was the biggest rumor." That was a reference to the 2017 Chinese movie, Wolf Warrior 2, in which the main character helps rescue Chinese expatriates in Africa from Western mercenaries.
However, some other comments criticized the Chinese expatriates for "wanting to take advantage of the government" and for "not wanting to pay for their own tickets."
VOA Mandarin reached out to the Chinese Embassy in Washington for China's evacuation plan and a response to the criticisms.
In an email, embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu, replied, "Relevant Chinese diplomatic institutions are taking every effective step to keep Chinese nationals and institutions safe. Commercial flights between China and Israel are still in operation. We advise local Chinese nationals to fly back to China on commercial flights as soon as possible.
"We will continue to carefully assess the security situation in Palestine and Israel, closely track air and ground accessibility and safety conditions, and exert every effort to provide assistance to Chinese nationals," he added..
VOA Mandarin searched on Tuesday for flights from Tel Aviv on Oct. 18 to Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Hong Kong. No direct flights were available. Around 9 am EST, most of the flights on Expedia leaving Tel Aviv on Oct. 18 to those five Chinese cities would cost more than $1,000. A VOA reporter paid $1,248 for a flight to Shanghai routed through Tokyo. By the time of publication, the flight had not been canceled.
VOA also found a direct flight on Expedia leaving for Shenzhen on Oct. 20 priced at $1,433.