Tensions over China’s strong presence in Zambia were rekindled during the weekend after the gruesome multiple murders of three Chinese factory owners have been reported.
The remains of the businessmen, believed to have been killed by aggrieved employees of the factory, were found by the police in the burnout textile factory in Makeni, a suburb of the capital Lusaka.
Police spokeswoman Esther Katongo on Wednesday said investigations have so far led to the arrest of two suspects. She reported that police have “retrieved the third body of the Chinese national murdered in Makeni.”
Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji told AFP that “as a government, we are saddened by the killing and it’s regrettable, it’s barbaric and I am certain that the police will be on top of things”.
The killings came after a campaign by Lusaka Mayor Miles Sampa to close Chinese-owned businesses, including barber shops and restaurants, after locals complained of discrimination.
The mayor has also targeted his crusade on a number of other Chinese businesses, pressing them to use the English language and to stop employing only Chinese nationals, saying “apartheid” ended a long time ago.
His altercations with the Chinese went viral on social media, prompting some government officials to denounce his action, although winning admiration of many Zambians.
Mr. Sampa on Wednesday apologised to Chinese nationals in Zambia for his actions, saying, “I accept my error in judgment.”
Zambian rights activist Brebner Changala warned of further repercussions as workers did not feel protected from Chinese employers who “want to behave like they are the owners of the country”.
“The unions and the ministry of labour that are supposed to protect them are not and so they have to fend and defend themselves,” Mr. Changala told AFP.
According to a United Nations 2019 world population study, an estimated 80,000 Chinese nationals live in Zambia.
China is the largest foreign investor in the landlocked country, having built airports, roads, schools, factories and police stations, fomenting anti-Chinese sentiment, with Zambia now heavily indebted to Beijing. (Source: The Straits Times)