Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Hundreds of residents of the Shanglin County (Guangxi) are ready to take to the streets to force their government to do something for their relatives prospecting for gold in Ghana, where they have been accused of staying in the country with expired residential permits, as well as abusing and even raping local Ghanaians.
Yesterday, Shanglin residents staged a protest outside their township government, carrying banners; one read: "The Chinese embassy in Ghana did nothing."
Locals said that many of their relatives still in the African country have called them by phone saying that they were afraid of being attacked, vandalised, robbed and even killed.
Ghanaian authorities have detained more than 160 Chinese in a crackdown on illegal mining. Most illegal gold prospectors in Ghana are Chinese, with most of the estimated 50,000 coming from Shanglin County.
The Immigration Service in Ghana said some of those detained held residential permits that had expired and that none of them were harmed.
Some Shanglin miners concede that their mines in Ghana are illegal. "We're sorry we sent them to Ghana for illegal mining. But we beg the central government to help bring them home."
Three years ago Chinese miners operated about 10 small gold mines in Ghana, but a gold rush broke out when it became clear that huge profits could be made with little investment.
Young men from Shanglin County have been rushing back and forth from Africa, organising operations with new investments. Now some 2,000 mines are open with some miners earning up to US$ 3,000 a day.
By law, only Ghanaian nationals are allowed to get mining licences and work in small-scale operations. But some local miners have accepted Chinese partners because they provide capital and technical services and equipment.
However, locals accuse the Chinese of using them for the dirtiest and toughest jobs, giving them rotten or inadequate food, as well as treating them "like dogs."
Some Chinese who lived in Ghana have confirmed such accusations, pointing the finger at what is now called the "Shanglin gang"."
The Ghanaian government has accused those arrested of using unauthorised mining methods, which pollute rivers and lakes.
For its part, the Chinese Embassy in Ghana is concerned that prisoners are treated well and sent officials on a fact-finding mission to the area.