August 07th, 2012 | Global Times Chinese killed in Zambia
The Chinese embassy in Zambia has urged the government to properly resolve a wage-related riot during which a Chinese employee was killed by local workers, and take timely measures to ease concerns among the Chinese community.
“We are negotiating with the labor ministry, foreign ministry and police authorities, urging them to send the criminals to court as soon as possible,” an official surnamed Chen with the embassy told the Global Times on Monday.
One Chinese employee was killed and another four injured during the confrontation that occurred at the Chinese-owned coal mining enterprise Collum in southern Zambia on Saturday, Chen confirmed.
He added that the clash was triggered by a new minimum wage regulation enacted last month.
Some 300 or 400 Zambian workers suddenly turned violent at around 1 am, throwing bricks, rocks and sticks at Chinese employees, Mei Xinpei, a salesperson with Collum, told the Global Times Monday.
One of the six trying to seek refuge in a shaft was killed after the rioters pulled a mine trolley into the pit, Mei said.
Police have arrested 12 suspects, while the one who directly caused the Chinese worker’s death is still at large, according to AFP, which also reported the workers were protesting against delays in implementing the new minimum wage.
The company had reached an agreement with a labor union on Thursday, which would bring up the minimum wage to 700,000 kwacha ($142) as required by the new act, and add another 100,000 kwacha to those who had been receiving more than this amount, said Mei.
It is not the first time that the enterprise, situated in Sinazongwe, 325 kilometers south of the capital Lusaka, has experienced disputes of this kind.
In October 2010, two Chinese employees opened fire on a group of protesting miners who were reportedly demanding a pay rise, causing 11 injuries and fuelling massive controversies.
“I don’t know why there is always tension between Chinese investors and workers at Collum,” Zambian Labor Minister Fackson Shamenda told AFP while expressing his regret over the Saturday killing.
The labor minister blamed the attackers, describing the protest as an “abominable criminal act by a mob,” according to Chen.
An employee surnamed Wang with the Zhengyuan mining company in northwestern Zambia told the Global Times that such serious conflicts are sporadic.
“In general, local workers are friendly to Chinese enterprises,” he said. “Maybe there are some management problems with companies often hit by such incidents,” he added.
Wang said enterprises in the country have faced some pressure since the new government came to power last year and pledged to improve the livelihoods of middle and lower-class citizens.
“The incidents will affect the Chinese enterprises’ image in the continent, and so we should strictly abide by local rules and regulations,” Wang added.
Denise Kodhe, editorial director of Flashline News Agency in Kenya, said the impact will be more on the African side.
“Naturally it has a negative impact on Africa, its people and its relationships and cooperation with other people, Chinese included,” Kodhe said.
Yao Jiamei, a scholar of African studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Chinese enterprises should pay great attention to their corporate social responsibility while pursuing profits.
“It’s crucial for the companies to hold their ground in the field to make locals feel that what you do is also creating benefits for them,” said Yao.
Collum suspended its operations after the riot and many Chinese workers are asking to return home, Mei said.
By Yang Jinghao