03/19/2010, 00.00
CHINA – AFRICA
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African stories: where the Chinese put their life at risk to enrich Beijing

Two men convicted of murdering Chinese workers are executed in Sudan. Seven Chinese fishermen are released after they were abducted in Cameroon. Through its companies, China is increasingly raising its profile in Africa, to exploit the continent’s natural and human resources. However, more and more, the local population views this presence as a “foreign invasion” and turning against it.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sudan executed two people convicted of killing four oil workers, two of them Chinese. Seven Chinese fishermen who were abducted off Cameroon's resource-rich Bakassi peninsula on 12 March were freed on Wednesday.

The two men who were executed were found guilty in 2004 of killing the workers and taking their vehicle in Heglig in Sudan's South Kordofan state. News agencies reporting the execution did not give further details about the incident; they only said the workers had been employed by a Chinese oil company.

China is one of the main partners of oil-rich Sudan, but in recent years, violence against Chinese workers has escalated. In October 2008, gunmen abducted nine Chinese oil workers, killing four.

In Cameroon, the seven fishermen taken hostage were freed last night, Chinese state-owned Xinhua news agency reported. The men, abducted on March 12 from two fishing boats, were travelling to Limbe. Their kidnappers were from a group calling itself the Africa Marine Commando and had demanded a ransom of US$ 15,000 to US$ 25,000. Their release was secured after days of negotiations.

Beijing is heavily involved in Africa. Its huge demand for raw materials means that it is willing to spend, no questions asked of how local governments use the money. Hence, it is prepared to do business with corrupt governments, willing selling off their nation’s resources so that its leaders can get rich quick.

When Western governments have to deal with questionable governments, they ask for guarantees that the money will be spent to benefit the population and refuse to deal with governments accused of crimes against their own people, like that of Sudan, which buys weapons from China to use against its own population.

China is gaining a bigger foothold in the African continent, but it is also causing greater resentment against its own people, increasingly seen as the new colonisers.

In Zambia’s Chambeshi region, Chinese firms have been accused of union busting and forcing their employees to work in unsafe conditions. In 2005, 51 miners died in a mining explosion. In 2006, Chinese supervisors and police shot at miners who were demanding better working conditions and better wages. In March 2008, miners staged a violent protest with police barely saving Chinese company officials from lynching.

In February 2007, rebels abducted 14 Chinese employees of the Chinese National Petroleum Company (and later released them) after they accused the company of helping a corrupt government steal local resources. In March 2007, two other Chinese employees were abducted. That same year, a Chinese engineer was killed in Kenya, and another wounded.

Anger is so widespread that in some countries like Zambia visiting Chinese dignitaries have had to curtail their public engagements to avoid popular protest.

In various countries, Beijing funds large-scale infrastructural development in exchange of natural resources; however, it usually requires that much of the construction be contracted out to Chinese companies, which bring in their own technical staff and workers, relying on local manpower only for the most menial and underpaid work.

China is also flooding many countries with its low-cost goods, undermining local manufacturing. In places like South Africa, the textile sector is reeling under the burden of Chinese competition.

More importantly, resource development is often indiscriminate. In January 2008, Sierra Leone had to ban lumber exports because of the “indiscriminate plunder of the forests” by foreign companies, chiefly those from China.

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