Attacks against nationals in Africa played down

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 February, 2012, 12:00am


State-run media said yesterday that attacks against Chinese workers in Africa were only sporadic incidents, denying that Chinese citizens living on the continent were more vulnerable to violence as Beijing expands its influence.

Xinhua made the comment in an article following the release of 25 Chinese workers in Egypt on Wednesday after being held for 15 hours. The comments also come after a rebel group in Sudan raised its demands to Beijing for the release of 29 workers who have been held since Saturday.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North demanded that Beijing persuade the Sudanese government to stop a military offensive in the south, while also insisting that China move its nationals out of war zones to avoid further abductions.

The rebel group's secretary general, Yasir Arman, said Beijing should ask the Sudanese government to open safe corridors for humanitarian operations. He said the rebels were calling on China to support the launch of an international investigation into alleged war crimes against the Sudanese people.

The kidnappings triggered concerns both at home and abroad that more Chinese workers could be targeted, with rebels using them as bargaining chips in talks.

But the Xinhua article, quoting mainland foreign affairs experts from state research institutes, said taking Chinese nationals hostage was rare.

'The two hostage incidents are individual and sporadic cases, and there is no sign that such incidents will become more regular,' He Wenping, an African affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted as saying.

Gong Li, director of the Institute of International Strategic Studies, said the kidnappings did not mean Chinese were being targeted or that there was growing resentment in Africa about the influence of Beijing.

'The allegations of China practising colonialism in Africa is a malicious accusation put up by the West out of political concerns,' he said.

He Wenping was also quoted as saying that China would continue investing in Africa and Beijing would continue to develop closer ties.

'The anti-China opinions spread by some Western political forces and media, and misunderstanding of Chinese-aided development projects among Africans, may have triggered a certain level of resentment. But such sentiment is not common,' she said. However, the two experts agreed that Chinese enterprises should conduct proper risk assessments before investing overseas.