BEIJING – More than 70 Mexican travelers have been quarantined in hospitals and hotels in China as part of sweeping anti-swine flu measures, the country's ambassador to Beijing said.
Mexicans were being asked to identify themselves on arriving flights and isolated from other travelers after landing, Jorge Guajardo said in an interview Sunday.
In one case, a Mexican couple and their three small children were rousted from their hotel room at 4 a.m. and transported to a hospital, he said. None of those in isolation has presented symptoms and most had no contact with infected persons or places, he said.
"In many cases we have gotten reports that they were being quarantined for the sole fact that they had a Mexican passport, whether or not they came from Mexico, whether or not they had been in Mexico, whether or not they had been in contact with someone else from Mexico," Guajardo said.
Not even the country's diplomats were immune. The Mexican consul general in the southern city of Guangzhou was briefly held for checks after returning from a Cambodian vacation last week, Guajardo said.
China's authoritarian government doesn't stand on niceties when shifting into crisis mode, locking down much of the country during last summer's Beijing Olympics and sealing off Tibetan areas following anti-government protests last year.
Its responses can often be extreme, shifting from neglectful to over-the-top. During the 2003 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, officials went from denying they had a problem to shutting down much of the country and quarantining scores of people virtually overnight.
Also mindful of the SARS crisis, health workers and police in Hong Kong sealed a downtown hotel with 350 tourists and employees inside to prevent the possible spread of swine flu after a Mexican who stayed there developed a fever. The 25-year-old man, who was not identified, was in stable condition Sunday. The hotel was under a seven-day quarantine that began Friday.
Guajardo said Chinese officials have not furnished the consular notification for Mexicans in quarantine and access he said they were required to provide under an international treaty.
Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa has called the quarantines in Beijing and elsewhere discriminatory and urged Mexicans not to travel to China until the situation is resolved.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Sunday it had no comment on the complaints and calls to the Health Ministry rang unanswered. But at a news conference Sunday, officials in southern city of Shanghai said the harsh measures were warranted and legal under Chinese law.
"This is for the sake of their own personal health and for the rest of society," said Xu Jianguang, director of the Shanghai Health Bureau. "I believe they will understand."