China’s foreign ministry says Zambia has not justified the arrest of its citizens. Photo: Handout

Pregnant woman refused bail after 31 Chinese accused of illegal mining in Zambia

China’s foreign ministry has expressed concern over the arrests in a Zambian copper mining town

A pregnant woman among a group of 31 Chinese citizens accused of involvement in illegal mining in Zambia has been refused bail, according to a Chinese media report.

The two-month pregnant woman was among five women arrested during police raids in the town of Chingola last week.

She is the newlywed wife of a translator working for a privately-owned Chinese mining firm and she only arrived in Zambia last month, according to Red Star News, an online news website run by the Chengdu Business Daily.

The report did not say if the other 30 people had been denied or granted bail.

The woman’s husband was quoted as saying that his wife was confined with a group of other women and was in a bad condition, but he had not been able yet to visit her in jail.

The man said a bail request for his wife was refused, but the authorities did not provide him with a reason why.

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

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.

Kampyongo also accused the Chinese citizens of employing youths to steal copper and precious minerals.

China’s foreign ministry said on Sunday it has made representation to the Zambian authorities expressing concerns over the arrests.
Lin Songtian (right), director-general of African affairs at China’s foreign ministry, expressed concerns over the arrests to Zambia's representative in China. Photo: Handout

Officials from the Chinese embassy in Zambia had visited those in detention and asked for a screening of the Chinese suspects and for their early release.

The foreign ministry also said China supported Zambia’s crackdown on illegal mining, but the country’s authorities had not provided strong evidence to justify the arrests.

Two other Chinese citizens in jail have malaria, the ministry said, urging that they be treated on humanitarian grounds.

Zambia’s economy heavily relies on copper mining and China has had economic links with the country since the 1960s.

Chinese state-owned and private companies have a significant presence in the landlocked African country’s mining industry but Chinese companies have been criticised for their poor safety and labour rights records.

The authorities in Ghana arrested and repatriated 218 Chinese citizens after a series of raids on illegal gold mines four years ago.