'Standards are terrible. Collapsing roofs and lack of ventilation 200 metres underground ... these are everyday dangers,' says Vincent Chenjela, a worker at the Chinese-owned Collum coal mine in southern Zambia. 'But these didn't prepare me for being shot by management.' Chenjela was speaking from his hospital bed in the capital Lusaka. The 20-year-old was one of 11 miners injured when two Chinese executives of the mine opened fire on a group of miners protesting against labour conditions and unpaid salaries on October 15. Xiao Lishan and Wu Jiuhua were arrested on Monday for attempted murder. The incident has caused outrage in the country, despite suggestions the Chinese were acting in self-defence. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the managers of the private company had 'mistakenly hurt several local workers', and promised to co-operate with Zambia on the case. Ma said Chinese companies were always required to adhere to local laws and regulations. Chenjela was one of two critically injured workers. 'I arrived at work and made my way to shaft two,' he said. 'I came upon the crowd, and before I could change course, [the suspects] started to shoot wildly.' Chenjela bore the brunt of two volleys. Unlikely to survive without specialist care, he was rushed in the back of a van to Lusaka's University Teaching Hospital, six hours away. There, surgeons removed more than 35 pieces of shrapnel from his body and 10 shell casings believed to have perforated his bowel. 'My son is lucky to be alive. If I had a gun, I would shoot those Chinese,' said his father, Leonard Kapwizi. 'He earns US$3 a day in terrible conditions. But there's no alternative. He works to help put food on our table and send his [five] brothers and sisters to school. 'We've spent three months' salary on his treatment. Now we don't know when he will work again.' The incident is a considerable embarrassment for both nations. Zambian President Rupiah Banda said the issue was not political - 'people are shot every day' - and called for calm as protests are planned outside the Chinese embassy on the National Day weekend. His country has been one of Beijing's closest allies since the era of Mao Zedong and late Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, and Zambia has subsequently emerged as a springboard for China's African economic odyssey. At the 2006 Forum on China-Africa Co-operation, Beijing proposed developing special economic zones. The first is operating on Zambia's northern copper belt at Chambishi. The success of this 'new Shenzhen', which the Zambian Development Agency (ZDA) estimates will account for almost half the country's non-traditional exports from 2015, has seen states across the continent fall over themselves to score similar deals with China. Andrew Chipwende, ZDA's director general, argues the tax breaks available to Chinese businesses operating at Chambishi, including Hang Seng-listed MCC, are justifiable. 'Chinese faith in Zambia, even during the recent global downturn, when they bought [two] foreclosed mines, has played a key role in restoring confidence,' he said. 'Chambishi has already created 5,000 [diversified] jobs. And where Chinese capital has flowed other investors have followed.' But critics argue that Chinese investment comes at a cost to Zambia, with the Collum shooting indicative of the disparity in the relationship. With by-elections taking place tomorrow and the country gearing up for the 2011 general election, the shootings mean China's conduct in Zambia has rapidly evolved into a hot political issue. 'The last two general elections have been won by margins of only 2 per cent by the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD),' observed Dr Guy Scott, vice-president of the main opposition party, the Patriotic Front (PF). 'People are fed up. They know the price of natural resources and how much China is making from the deals it struck with the MMD. And Chambishi is an enclave - closed to regular Zambian companies.' Scott said the terms of China's contracts in Zambia could be rescrutinised were the PF to win next year's general election. In hospital, Chenjela's mother, Loveness, finishes reclamping the drainage tube emerging from her son's chest: 'It's not just the shooting. Every day miners are beaten for no reason,' she said. 'They broke a boy's legs, they hit him so hard. How do they get away with this?'