S Sudan told to help free kidnapped workers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 February, 2012, 12:00am


Beijing has demanded that South Sudan help secure the release of 29 Chinese workers held by Sudanese rebels, and will appeal to the African Union to help in the negotiations, state media reported yesterday.

The People's Daily, quoting an unnamed source, reported that a Chinese team had arrived in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, for talks with the government.

'At the same time, the Chinese officials will also go to the African Union and other nations to seek mediation. Our purpose is to ensure the Chinese workers return home safe,' the source said.

The workers were abducted on Saturday by rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North near their work camp in Al-Abbasiya, in the conflict-ridden province of South Kordofan on the border between the two Sudans. There were 47 workers at the camp when the attack was launched, but 18 escaped.

The Sudanese army found 17 of the workers. The Chinese embassy in Sudan says there is only a slim chance that the 18th worker has survived. He is believed to have suffered gunshot wounds and has yet to be found.

The rebels have demanded that Beijing push the Sudanese government to open safe corridors for humanitarian operations, and support the launch of an international investigation into alleged war crimes against the Sudanese people.

Hao Hongshe, an economic and commercial counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Sudan, told Xinhua yesterday that some Chinese workers were captured when they mistook the rebels for Sudanese troops.

The rebels have met Chinese diplomats in Ethiopia and have assured Beijing that the workers are in good health but have not said when they will be freed.

Another group of 25 Chinese workers in Egypt were held by Bedouin tribesmen on Wednesday, but were released after 15 hours.

In a short article, the People's Daily said more such incidents would happen in the future as China expanded its investment in volatile countries.

'Those countries which offer good investment conditions have already been occupied by the West, and only the dangerous and troublesome countries are left. Chinese enterprises have no other choice,' the article said. 'When China's influence is rising, the political and economic benefits gained by rebels through kidnapping Chinese will be exemplified.'

The article said Chinese enterprises did not have thorough understanding of local conditions and had not established ties with local tribes.

'Some have even failed to establish connections with local government and security departments,' it said.

Hao said China would continue investing in developing countries, but Chinese enterprises operating in them should hire more local people and fewer Chinese nationals.

He said China would learn from the experience and improve safety education for Chinese workers and enterprises.