Kidnapping of Chinese in Africa – What can and what should Beijing do?

  • Sven Grimm


The year 2012 began with more news on kidnapping of Chinese workers in African states, the latest and highest numbers being in Sudan and in Egypt. As our Weekly Briefing reported, Chinese road workers were kidnapped by rebels in Southern Kordofan, an oil-rich, rebellion-racked state of Sudan. China's Vice Foreign Minister, Xie Hangsheng, expressed that he was “deeply shocked" by the abductions and China sent a Foreign Ministry-led working group to Sudan to assist the rescue of the 29 workers. Another group of 25 Chinese taken hostage in Egypt was freed the same week. The hostage-taking was not directed against Chinese actions. Rather, conflict groups used international hostages that they could easily get hold of. It is more than likely that we will see more incidences of kidnapping or other dangerous situations for Chinese in the nearer future. What does this mean for Chinese investments and Chinese policies? Linked to the incidences described above, the Chinese Foreign Ministry warned Chinese nationals and overseas companies to be more wary of safety risks, strengthen preventative measures and contact China's diplomatic missions in emergency situations, reported China Daily. In fact, in the Chinese publications monitoring China-Africa relations, we have seen a number of more cautious statements after the civil war in Libya led to the evacuation of around 34,000 Chinese, which was, in the first place, a scary experience for those directly affected. It also, however, was a costly exercise with presumably included great losses of investments, too. In other words: There are two dimensions in this increasing number of incidences: the individual and the political.