Danger on road ahead over foreign contracts

Updated: 2012-02-22 07:25

By An Baijie and Xiang Mingchao (China Daily)

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Figures show that increasing numbers of Chinese working overseas are becoming targets of crime in recent years.

In the past five years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its departments handled more than 120,000 cases concerning consular protection and carried out 10 expatriate evacuations, according to statistics provided by the Department of Consular Affairs.

More than 16,000 Chinese companies run overseas operations, and 60 million trips abroad were made by Chinese people in 2010, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

There have been at least 12 kidnap cases involving Chinese citizens since 2007, mostly in African and Asian countries, including Sudan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

The bloodiest case occurred on April 24, 2007, when about 200 gunmen attacked a construction site in southeast Ethiopia where 37 Chinese and more than 120 local people were working. The attack left nine Chinese and 65 local workers dead, with another seven Chinese workers kidnapped, who were later rescued.

Another 47 Chinese workers were caught up in an attack in southern Sudan on Jan 28. Twenty-nine were abducted by gunmen while 18 managed to escape. One of the latter went missing and has been confirmed dead.

The kidnapped workers were released after 11 days and arrived back in Beijing on Feb 9.

Apart from violent attacks, Chinese overseas workers may also face risk of disease, such as malaria, traffic accidents and robbery at their foreign residences.

"Chinese companies face more and more challenges nowadays to protect the safety of their employees and assets when expanding overseas," said Zhang Chengping, vice-president of the China Henan International Cooperation Group (CHICO), which sends about 600 employees to work overseas each year.

CHICO's engineering administration manager, Hu Bingwei, said that Chinese workers overseas can also find themselves caught up in local political disputes.

"I had a narrow escape in Guinea in 2007 when the country's army rebelled and exchanged fire with the president's forces," Hu said. "I was less than 100 meters from the gunmen and felt very frightened."

"Vehicles loaded with gunmen were careering through the streets and firing at each other. I was familiar with the place and hid myself in a yard next to the military camp."