June 26 (UPI) -- China is taking a tough approach to refugees after press reports issued on World Refugee Day fuel awareness of the ongoing crisis of displaced people around the world.
Beijing's Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently said all "refugees should return to their homeland," during a visit to Beirut, Lebanon, while suggesting China has no interest in taking refugees, Chinese news network Reference News reported Monday.
There are more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
"Nations in the Middle East are carrying an immense burden in accepting refugees from Syria and other places," Wang said. "Refugees are not immigrants and are roaming the world, after losing their homeland. I look forward to the time when all refugees return to their homeland to rebuild their hometowns."
Public debate in China over refugee acceptance was ignited after state media covered the plight of millions of refugees on World Refugee Day last Tuesday.
Many Chinese commenters said online they are not open to refugees.
"The media reports were intended to create a positive atmosphere for accepting refugees," said one online commenter. "If refugees enter China, the Chinese people will suffer tremendously. Social anxiety will escalate."
An unofficial survey taken on Chinese social media network Weibo indicated 97 percent of respondents were opposed to accepting refugees, while only 3 percent said they were open to the idea.
In Beirut, Wang did not offer a Chinese solution to the refugee crisis, an indication the world's second-largest economy is rejecting the idea of granting asylum to displaced Syrians or other peoples fleeing war and famine.
The Chinese foreign minister also said Beijing has long been providing humanitarian aid at refugee camps within the framework of the United Nations.
According to Beijing News, China hosts 300,000 refugees, and 99 percent of them are originally from Vietnam, who fled their homeland in the '80s by boat.
China is also home to North Korean defectors who are not recognized as refugees in the country.
North Koreans are sometimes repatriated to their country of origin.