Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces began on Feb. 24, Wang Jixian, a Chinese programmer living in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, has published videos on social media to shed light on the situation there.
36-year-old Wang is a Chinese executive working for an American AI technology company. Before moving to Ukraine, he never thought that Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, or the popular tourist destination of Odessa would ever encounter war.
In videos posted to his YouTube and WeChat accounts, Wang shows footage of Russian fighter jets being shot down, Ukrainian civilians making petrol bombs, and the dozens of corpses left bloodied on the streets of Odessa.
Because Beijing has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion despite growing pressure from the West, opting instead to call it a “special military operation,” Wang’s WeChat account (a popular Chinese social media platform) was blocked by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), on grounds of “spreading malicious rumors and illegal content.”
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At the same time, Wang said he was also targeted by online hackers who accused him of “betraying the country,” while others threatened that he would be sent to jail or be killed when he returned to China.
Wang: ‘I am no longer afraid’
“I have two battlefields now,” Wang Jixian said in an interview with VOA. “The one in front is terrifying. It has tanks, but I can see it, I can touch it. I can also avoid it. The other battlefield is even scarier, I can’t see it, but it exists. I don’t even know who they are, but they want to kill me,” referring to the many death threats he received from cyber bullies.
However, Wang said he is no longer afraid of the threats and debunked the CCP’s lies about the evacuation of overseas Chinese living in Ukraine. Wang said he did not receive any notice regarding the evacuation, and only saw a statement posted on the Chinese embassy’s website urging Chinese nationals to evacuate the area after the invasion had already begun.
”We only saw the notice hours after the invasion began, who informed us? Nobody did.” Wang said.
Chinese nationals caught in crossfire
Compared with Western countries, China’s slow evacuation of overseas nationals has led to thousands of Chinese students and businessmen like Wang stranded in Ukraine. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, was severely bombed by Russian forces, forcing many Chinese students to seek refuge in underground tunnels and subways.
In the Samui area, hundreds of Chinese students huddled together to sleep in air-raid shelters. As food sources became increasingly scarce, some younger students broke down in tears but still the Chinese embassy did not offer any help and told them to evacuate on their own.
Wang said that his friends in Kharkov only received the notice to evacuate from the Chinese embassy on March 1, days after the invasion had begun. In addition, they were asked to meet at an extraction point located in the capital of Kiev, but all roads and bridges leading to Kiev had either been bombed or shut down, making the trip there impossible.
In one of the final videos posted to his YouTube account, Wang apologized to his parents and said he had decided to stay behind to assist Ukrainians in any way he could, as trying to evacuate Odessa at this point would simply not be feasible.
According to the Russian authorities, two Chinese nationals were wounded by Ukrainian troops firing on them as they tried to flee Kharkov. Another report, which was censored in China, claimed that four Chinese citizens were shot dead in a separate incident.
‘People have the right to live’
Wang also continued to call for an “end to this war” adding that, “I don’t care what country you come from, first and foremost I am a person and I respect life. People have the right to live,” he said.
“There are humanitarian disasters everywhere here.”
Wang added that although he does not have the ability to directly help fight Russian forces on the battlefield, some of his Chinese friends took up arms to help Ukrainian troops and were killed by Russian gunfire.
Thanks to his background in programming and tech, Wang said he has been helping Ukrainians repair mobile phones that may have been infiltrated by Russian hackers, and has offered to help watch the children of parents who have gone off to fight the war.