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China’s Demands for Release of Workers Held by Rebels in Sudan Fall on Deaf Ears

The Chinese government may be accustomed to bullying its own people or small neighbouring countries, but it is finding that the rest of the world are less easily cowed by its might than it thought. The problem is that the Chinese people trust their government to wield its influence to ensure the safety of its nationals working abroad. This has allowed Chinese companies to undertake ventures into dangerous places which are generally shunned by Western companies.

But the people’s confidence could be starting to fail after a series of abductions and other incidents faced by workers in foreign countries.

A big news event last year occurred when tens of thousands of Chinese workers were trapped in Libya after fighting broke out. Currently in the news is the story about 25 Chinese cement factory workers being held in Egypt’s Sinai region by Bedouin tribesman demanding the release of fellow tribesman from prison.

Worries in China about overseas workers will be further exacerbated by the news that 29 workers have been abducted in the border state of South Kordofan, Sudan. This follows similar abductions in 2004 and 2008. China has more than 100 companies and 10,000 personnel working in both north and south Sudan.

China is urging Sudan to seek the immediate rescue of its people, declaring that they are "shocked" by their abduction. The message highlighted the pressure that China faces to secure the safety of the abducted workers; it has even sent officials from the Foreign Ministry and other agencies to "assist in rescue work".

Xie, the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister said that, "The Chinese government attaches much importance to protecting citizens abroad and feels shocked about this abduction incident. The Chinese government urges Sudan to act out of regard for our two countries' friendly cooperation, and to keep using a variety of channels to intensify rescue efforts, doing everything possible to ensure the safety of the Chinese nationals and striving by every means to create the conditions for their safe release as soon as is possible."

The construction workers have been kidnapped by the SPLM-N, who have been fighting the Sudanese army in South Kordofan, and claimed that they only took the workers to ensure their safety.

On Monday the Chinese Foreign Ministry said 29 of the workers remained in rebel hands while another 17 had reached safety and one was missing. If the situation can’t be resolved quickly and peacefully Chinese companies may find it difficult to work in foreign countries where local unrest could be perceived as a threat.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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