The recent spate of killings of Chinese nationals in South Africa is not personal; it's business, say local security experts and police officials. 'Crime goes where the money is, and small businesses make easy targets,' says Gail Wannenberg, a researcher at Business Against Crime, a privately funded security think-tank. The killings made headlines in China and provoked Beijing to ask the South African government to 'take substantial measures' to protect its citizens. Local Chinese businesses have now begun to hire private security companies to protect themselves. There were more than 40 robberies targeting Chinese in South Africa last year, in which eight were killed. Lin Yixing , from Fujian , was the latest victim, dying in a Bloemfontein hospital on Monday after being gunned down by a robber in his bar. The day before, another Fujian native, Chen Jianqing , 35, was killed for 50,000 rand ($63,170) when she was shot in the chest during a robbery at her shop 45km from Johannesburg. Her partner, Weng Qiming , was shot in the leg during the robbery. Police have arrested one suspect over the murder. The day before, Chen Jingmin , 23, was shot in the head during a robbery at a Johannesburg factory. On January 10, a Hong Kong businessman Lau Heung-wing, 39, was attacked and robbed at his home in Johannesburg and died the next day in hospital. Police have also just announced a US$10,000 reward for leads in the execution of a Chinese teenager gunned down in a car-jacking last year. Criminals are notoriously violent in South Africa, which endures one of the world's highest homicide rates. Last year Johannesburg, a city of around 8 million residents, had 694 homicides. Hong Kong, a city of similar population with 7 million people, by contrast, recorded only 45. Johannesburg residents take a grim pride in labelling their city 'gangsters' paradise'. Those who can afford it subscribe to armed response companies who swoop, guns drawn, if a household alarm or panic button is triggered. In recent years, however, better policing and the improvement of security at traditional targets like banks has forced criminals to seek softer targets. It is likely, says Ms Wannenberg, that criminals see small business as choice prey because they are cash intensive and have little or no security. 'Small businesses often stay open late, and they service communities where cash, rather than credit, is used.' Other ethnic communities are similarly vulnerable. The Portuguese, for instance, own many small grocery shops that stay open late and are often the targets of violent crime. A spate of slayings of Portuguese people resulted in demonstrations both in South Africa and Portugal over the past year. Quite often all it takes to be a victim is the impression of wealth. When a group of Falun Gong members arrived in Johannesburg in 2004 they were ambushed by gunmen minutes after leaving the airport. The shaken members of the meditation sect managed to escape their attackers, who had sprayed their car with bullets from assault rifles, and later claimed they were victims of a Chinese government-inspired assassination attempt. Soon afterwards police arrested a gang that had been targeting wealthy-looking tourists who disembarked from international flights. The Chinese embassy has meanwhile sent a police liaison team to monitor investigations into the killings. 'The crime situation generally is serious, there's no doubt about it,' says Hui Zhang, who heads the liaison team. 'There might be one or two groups who target Chinese businesses but it seems more the result of the general crime situation. It does not appear that Chinese nationals are being specifically sought out.' Mr Zhang says they have asked the police to deploy additional manpower to the cases and to provide more protection to Chinese nationals. Police say they are working hard on the cases but do not view these crimes as specific to a particular ethnic group. 'It is unfortunate that people of Chinese origin, some of them South African citizens, others visitors - have been among those targeted by criminals, but it is incorrect to suggest specific nationalities are affected for whatever reason,' says police spokesman Director Phuti Setati. There are 100,000 Chinese in South Africa, many from Taiwan but most from the mainland, which enjoys particularly good relations with South Africa. The country has proved a ready market for textiles and manufactured goods. As bilateral trade has grown, so has the size of the Chinese population. This has brought with it security concerns of its own, say police. Chinese triads are active in smuggling operations and are largely responsible for the almost total decimation of local stocks of abalone, an endangered shellfish that is protected by law but a highly sought-after delicacy in China. Police say Chinese gangsters barter drugs for the abalone, and the narcotics end up in poverty-stricken townships where they aggravate already high crime levels. Many newly arrived Chinese also turn to loansharks for funding to set up businesses. In 2004 a Chinese couple, Jia-Bin Li and his wife Zin, were strangled in front of their four-year-old daughter Ruby. Li had failed to make payments on a loan to business partners Siyuan Liu and Jiansen Bai, both Chinese nationals. Minutes after killing the pair, Ruby was strangled too, and the bodies of the family were stuffed into a drainpipe. Liu and Bai were arrested and are currently on trial for the killings. 'Criminals often work in very small circles,' Ms Wannenberg adds. 'They will prey on their own community because it is what's familiar to them. They make an easy target.'