Two Chinese workers were freed hours after being taken hostage by gunmen in Cairo early yesterday morning.
Xinhua quoted Zhang Zhizhong, director of the consular section at the Chinese embassy in Cairo, as saying that the workers, sent to Egypt by a stone materials company in Guangdong, were kidnapped as they were walking out of their rented flat in Maadi in southern Cairo at about 6am.
The state news agency later issued another dispatch saying the two workers had been released, but did not specify the time or conditions of their release.
It was the latest in a string of kidnappings that have sparked growing concern about the safety of Chinese overseas as they head abroad in search of commodities and business opportunities.
Sudanese rebels in southern Kordofan, near the border with South Sudan, kidnapped 29 Chinese workers on January 28, and released them 10 days later.
Bedouin tribesmen who took 25 Chinese workers hostage in Egypt on January 31 freed them a day later.
Thirteen Chinese merchant sailors were murdered on the Mekong River in Thailand in October and four Chinese nationals working for contractors of mainland petrochemicals giant Sinochem were taken hostage by rebels in southern Colombia in June. China also evacuated 48,000 citizens from Egypt, Libya and Japan last year.
Professor Shi Yinhong, director of Renmin University's Centre for American Studies, says the safety issue has posed a huge challenge to Chinese firms planning further expansion abroad.
'Chinese firms have been full-on in recent years in terms of going abroad, mostly in those countries with a good investment environment but unstable situation,' he said. 'China will encounter more issues like this if it maintains such a fast pace.
'Chinese firms should evaluate safety risks in more detail when deciding to go overseas rather than only focusing on expansion.'