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  • » 03/19/2010, 00.00


    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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    See also

    27/09/2011 CHINA - AFRICA
    Zambia, the new president calls for respect, acknowledgement of locals' rights, from Chinese firms
    The new president Michael Sata revises relations with China, after over 20 years of a privileged relationship. Backed by the youth, the unemployed and trade unions, he promises to crack down on corruption and "illegal" work methods in Chinese mines. Beijing is the largest investor in the country rich in copper and raw materials.

    17/05/2007 CHINA – AFRICA
    China and Africa to develop together without neo-colonial relations
    For the first time Beijing is concerned about Africa’s crises and the Darfur genocide. But trade remains its main focus. African states want to improve trade relations with China and Asia but do not want to be exploited.

    16/03/2009 VATICAN – AFRICA
    Pope coming as a friend of Africa, says PIME missionary
    Fr Marco Pagani, from the PIME community in Yaoundé, shares with AsiaNews readers his expectations with regards to Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to Yaoundé (Cameroon) and Luanda (Angola). For Africans the Church is different from the neo-colonialism of the international community. It is urgent that faith grow among Africans so that the Church’s social doctrine can be implemented in their culture.

    21/06/2006 CHINA - SOUTH AFRICA - ANGOLA
    Wen Jiabao in Angola, offering loans and getting oil

    Agreements with South Africa on nuclear energy and textiles are lined up. Angola is China's main oil supplier: Beijing gives loans for works and Chinese firms get oil contracts.  

    16/01/2008 CHINA – AFRICA
    Chinese thrown out of Sierra Leone for destroying local forests
    The authorities in Sierra Leone complain that foreign (mostly Chinese) companies have plundered the country’s timber, cutting it down indiscriminately, and exporting it without any benefit for local communities. Experts note that issue revolves around the extent to which Chinese aid can compensate for what the mainland extracts and takes out in terms of precious resources.

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