Chinese nationals held in Zambia over illegal mining

Foreign ministry protests over arrest of 31 Chinese, saying authorities had not provided strong evidence

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 June, 2017, 11:04pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 June, 2017, 11:04pm

Thirty-one Chinese were arrested in Zambia for involvement in illegal mining, China’s foreign ministry said yesterday.

Lin Songtian, director-general for African affairs at the ministry, expressed concerns over the arrests to Zambia’s representative in China, a statement from the ministry said.

It quoted Lin as saying that China supported Zambia’s crackdown on illegal mining, but that the country’s authorities had not provided strong evidence for the arrests.

The Times of Zambia reported on Sunday that the Chinese were arrested on Saturday in Chingola as police, intelligence and immigration officers swept through the copper-mining town.

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The report quoted Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo as saying that foreigners should not get involved in mining-related operations such as smelting without proper licences.

“We are here to put to an end this criminality. Foreign investors who come into this country must work within the confines of the law. Those who break the law will be flushed out,” he said. “We are going to restore order in the city of Chingola. It is saddening to see that even children below the age of 10 years are being used in illegal activities”.

In the ministry statement, Lin said Zambian police officers did not show their identification documents during the operation. One of the arrested was a pregnant woman, and two others had malaria, he added.

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“China expresses serious concern and resolute opposition,” he said. “We hope Zambian authorities will properly handle the incident, and protect the legitimate interests of Chinese citizens.”

China has been expanding its presence and investments in Africa, especially in resources and energy, and allegations of Chinese citizens being involved in illegal mining have been made before.

In 2013, authorities in Ghana arrested and repatriated 218 Chinese nationals after a series of raids on illegal gold mines.