Chen Shihai, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee. (Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)
As China has made progress in containing COVID-19 while the virus spreads in other parts of the world, the role of overseas Chinese has changed from that of aid providers to those who need help.
Chen Shihai, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, believes that it is his duty to take care of the overseas Chinese and provide them with support.
As president of the Fujian Provincial Overseas Chinese Federation, Chen has been engaged in organizing and coordinating assistance to Fujian people working and living in foreign countries hit by the pandemic.
The federation has sent health kits containing epidemic prevention materials to 131 Fujian overseas associations in more than 60 countries.
"My colleagues and I set up about 30 consultation service groups on the social messaging platform WeChat. We listened to their requests and invited doctors to answer their questions, sharing with them medical services and knowledge about fighting the epidemic," he said.
Chen said establishing the platforms was a complicated task due to different time zones. Professionals, including officials and doctors, also needed to be on hand to provide advice to overseas Chinese.
He said it is a tiring but worthwhile job.
"We have opened a 24-hour consultation hotline and kept in very close contact with Fujian people who are working and living overseas," the 54-year-old said, adding that the assistance and support had helped ease their fears and provide stability.
"We will continue to offer help to our people overseas, especially those in Africa and South America, where the pandemic is ongoing", Chen said.
As COVID-19 hit China hard early this year, overseas Chinese made all-out efforts to offer assistance to their motherland. A total of 96 Fujian overseas associations in 41 countries provided medical assistance to their home province.
"It showed their love for their home province and their compatriots," Chen said, adding that their sincere efforts touched him and inspired him to provide support to Fujian people overseas when they were in need.
In March, when Italy was being overwhelmed by the impact of the virus, 14 medical experts from Fujian were sent to aid the country's fight. Overseas Chinese associations in Italy arranged accommodations for the team as they performed consulting work at Italian hospitals, Chen said.
Liu Bingzi, chairman of the Fujian Fellowship Association in Italy, said overseas Chinese played an active role in promoting exchanges and communication between China and foreign countries.
"Although we are far apart and may have never met before, we are from Fujian and our blood is thicker than water. We can overcome the difficulties together," Liu said.
But Chen believes the role overseas Chinese can play is not limited to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The virus has blocked our movements, but cannot interrupt our cultural exchanges and emotional bonds," Chen said, adding they will continue to hold online cultural activities.
Overseas Chinese are valuable resources in nongovernmental exchanges, and important in telling Chinese stories to other nationalities to help their understanding of China, Chen said.
They can serve as a bridge in friendly cooperation between China and other countries, promoting people-to-people exchanges under the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, and building a community with a shared future for mankind, he added.