UNHCR chief praises work of Chinese Goodwill Ambassador Yao Chen

News Stories, 23 October 2013

© UNHCR/L.Huang
UN refugee agency chief António Guterres presents a letter of appointment to UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador in China, Yao Chen, in Beijing.

BEIJING, China, October 23 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today expressed his appreciation to UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador in China, Yao Chen, for her work for refugees.

The High Commissioner met the Chinese actress on Wednesday, midway through his three-day official visit to Beijing. Yao Chen was recently named UNHCR's national Goodwill Ambassador after serving three years as the agency's Honorary Patron. Presenting her with a certificate of appointment, Guterres congratulated and thanked her for her impressive contributions.

"I'm very happy to have someone like you supporting the cause of refugees," he said. "Public awareness of UNHCR in China has multiplied thanks to your support."

In the last three years, Yao Chen has visited urban refugees in the Philippines, Myanmar refugees in Thailand's camps and Somali refugees in Ethiopia's camps. "Even though they had so little, they were very generous," she recalled, marvelling at the refugees' strength and resilience.

The Goodwill Ambassador has spoken widely about refugee issues at public events such as the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, and shared her field experiences through traditional and social media. Nicknamed the "Queen of Weibo" the Chinese equivalent of Twitter she has helped to raise public awareness about refugees' needs through her following of 55 million people.

"If you tweet a photo of yourself, it could get retweeted many times over. In comparison, refugee issues may be somewhat controversial," said Yao Chen about the reactions she has received on social media. "However, the awareness is increasing. In the beginning, I had to answer basic questions like who is a refugee. Now some of my followers do the work for me."

People's attitudes have changed in the last three years, she said, noting that UNHCR was among some of last year's most commonly searched key words under the non-profit category on Baidu, the largest Chinese-language search engine. "If more people know about refugees, more will get involved in helping them," she said.

The actress, best known for her roles in the TV series "Undercover" and movies like "If You Are the One 2," presented Guterres with handmade candy to celebrate the 100-day anniversary of her son's birth. She told the High Commissioner she hoped that when her son grows up, he can join her on her visits to the refugee camps.

Sharing his own vision, Guterres said, "China is a key global player. I hope to upgrade the cooperation between UNHCR and China, to enhance dialogue with the government on how to resolve and prevent displacement around the world."

The High Commissioner will complete his visit to China on Thursday after meeting with State Councilor Yang Jiechi as well as top officials from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Civil Affairs.

By Vivian Tan In Beijing, China