China’s foreign ministry has expressed concerns over the recent detention of 31 of its nationals in Zambia, allegedly involved in illegal mining activities, arguing the African country’s authorities didn’t provide strong proof for the arrests.
Lin Songtian, director-general for African affairs at the ministry, said his country supports actions to crack down on illegal mining, but believes Zambian authorities have some explanation to do in this particular case, South China Morning Post reports.
Among the 31 Chinese nationals arrested over the weekend there is a pregnant woman and two others with malaria.
The group arrested over the weekend at the copper-mining town of Chingola, includes a pregnant woman and two other people with malaria, Lin said.
China has been aggressively expanding its presence in Africa’s resource and energy sectors, with mining investments currently accounting for more than one-third of the country’s total foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region.
However, accusations of worker abuse, underpayment and illegal mining against Chinese citizens have also mounted in the past decade.
In 2010, two Chinese managers were accused of attempted murder after firing on miners during a pay dispute. The charges were later dropped.
Two years later, Zambian miners killed a Chinese manager during a riot at a coal mine.
The situation has been similar in other African countries, particularly Ghana, where authorities arrested and repatriated more than 200 Chinese nationals in 2013, following a series of raids on illegal gold mines.