China's students help worried nation keep in touch with Japan

China's overseas student population has rallied its resources in an effort to help relatives and friends keep in touch with Chinese still in Japan in the aftermath of last Friday's earthquake.

In response to the tragedy, China's vast student network has this week established a special forum on its popular website www.renren.com so that people can keep in touch with friends and family still in Japan.

There were 280,000 studying overseas this year, including an estimated 80,000 in Japan, and they have established a strong support system across the globe which allows people back home to receive regular updates on the students' welfare.

China has also been relying heavily on the website Sina Weibo ( http://t.sina.com.cn) - the nation's equivalent of Twitter - for updates on the status of its citizens living and working in Japan.

There were an estimated 16,000 Chinese nationals living in the hardest-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima before the quake.

The disaster has received blanket coverage in the mainland Chinese media - at a time when newspapers, news agencies, websites and television stations would normally be focusing their attention on the 11th National People's Congress, which decides government policies for the next five years, and on little else.

The Chinese government has already donated 30 million yuan (3.3 million euros) to the relief effort while the nation has also sent a 15-member rescue team to help Japan deal with the disaster and was quick to acknowledge the fact that Japan was one of the first nations to react with help following China's most recent massive earthquake disaster, in Sichuan in 2008.

China's travel industry - which annually sends an estimated 1.41 million citizens to Japan - has almost unilaterally suspended all tours and trips to the country and is in the processes of arranging the return of any Chinese still stranded in Japan, according to media reports.

MS

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