Ming Cha writes from Luanda: Another Chinese worker kidnapped in Angola. The problem is becoming serious as the oil rich state is a magnet for the criminal fraternity. As China’s presence expands in Africa and elsewhere, it has found it more and more difficult to protect its citizens working abroad. The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) or police are responsible for the security of Chinese nationals abroad. Its main difficulty is that it does not have agents in all sensitive regions. When an emergency occurs, the MPS sends a squad to investigate. Their success rate is not very impressive.
Well, Beijing has now come up with a solution, at least in Angola. The Chinese are everywhere there. They are building the largest shopping mall in Africa, in Luanda. They construct roads, bridges, railways, schools, hospitals and so on. There is plenty of money there. This has attracted the good, bad and indifferent. The Chinese are a prime target for every conceivable type of crime.
So what is China’s solution? An agreement was signed between the MPS and Angola’s Ministry of the Interior. An MPS working group was sent to Luanda to collaborate with the Angolans in an attempt to put an end to the spate of kidnappings, extortion and assaults which have made life unpleasant for China’s expatriates. Last week 37 suspects were flown back to China to stand trial. When found guilty they will serve their sentences in Chinese gaols. Just imagine the impact if British police went to an African country, arrested 37 suspects and brought them back to London for sentencing! Human rights’ lawyers would be accusing Britain of imperialism. How have these lawyers reacted to Africans being flown to China for sentencing? There has not been a squeak so far.
The Angolan case was the first joint operation conducted in collaboration with an African state. However such operations have been carried out in Asia.
In November 2010 a team arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to rescue Chinese girls who had been tricked into prostitution. However they returned to Beijing with red faces. The girls said they preferred to stay and be prostitutes. Last month, a Chinese group collaborated with police in Myanmar to locate and destroy a facility producing drugs. Another operation in Laos had the aim of capturing a Myanmar drug baron believed to have been responsible for the murder of 13 Chinese sailors in the Mekong delta last October. The arrest was actually made by the Laotian police and the baron was then handed over to the Chinese.
The Chinese public find it intolerable that the MPS is unable to guarantee the security of Chinese abroad. After all, the Middle Kingdom does not interfere in the domestic politics of foreign states. It is only concerned with commercial relations. However China is discovering that it cannot separate the two. The attraction of seizing Chinese nationals working for large state companies and demanding a large ransom is obvious. However there is also the growing resentment felt by Africans at the increasing numbers of Chinese who are moving to Africa. There are now over a million there. Some have put down roots and are doing good business. There are always labour disputes as Africans find Chinese labour discipline taxing, to put it mildly. It is not uncommon for workers to kill Chinese managers. The most recent case was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The next stage in Angola will be to station MPS teams there permanently. They can then react quickly to emergencies. After Angola, why not in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? No wonder some Africans see China as the next colonial power.