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China denies singling out Mexicans for quarantine

 Mexico's Ambassador to Beijing Jorge Guajardo speaks during an interview by Associated Press at the Mexico Embassy in Beijing, China, Sunday, May 3, ...
 Mexico's ambassador to Beijing Jorge Guajardo speaks during an interview by Associated Press at the Mexico Embassy in Beijing, China, Sunday, May 3, ...

China Mexico Swine Flu

Mexico's Ambassador to Beijing Jorge Guajardo speaks during an interview by Associated Press at the Mexico Embassy in Beijing, China, Sunday, May 3, ...

China Mexico Swine Flu

Mexico's ambassador to Beijing Jorge Guajardo speaks during an interview by Associated Press at the Mexico Embassy in Beijing, China, Sunday, May 3, ...

China on Monday denied discriminating against Mexicans in its fight against swine flu after the Latin American country complained that more than 70 Mexican travelers have been quarantined even though some are apparently not at risk for the virus.
Mexicans were being asked to identify themselves on arriving flights and isolated from other travelers after landing and then being placed in hospitals and hotels, Jorge Guajardo, the Mexican ambassador to Beijing, 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.
China's Foreign Ministry said Mexicans were not being singled out and added it hoped Mexico would "address the issue in an objective and calm manner."
"The relevant measures are not targeted at Mexican citizens, and are not discriminatory. This is purely a question of health inspection and quarantine," the ministry said in a statement.
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.
Chinese authorities also tracked down and quarantined other passengers who had been on the same flight as a Mexican traveler later diagnosed in Hong Kong with swine flu, the Health Ministry said.
The ministry said in a statement that none of the passengers under quarantine in China had symptoms of the virus.
"I was isolated in a ward with a bathroom and a TV, and whatever I needed was delivered through a little window by nurses wearing protective gear," Zeng Ping, one of the quarantined passengers of the flight that made a stop in Shanghai, was quoted as saying by the China Daily newspaper. "Everything reminded me of SARS."
As part of its swine-flu prevention, Beijing had already banned imports of pork from Mexico, some U.S. states and Alberta in Canada. It has also canceled the only direct flights between China and Mexico, a twice weekly service by Aeromexico.
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.
Many of the Mexicans are being held in a hotel on the edge of Beijing, and Guajardo was stopped from entering it Sunday when he went to check on their condition. He was able to deliver food and other supplies to the people held there.
On Monday, a tight security cordon was visible around the hotel, a plain brick building.
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.