Racial tensions run high in Zambia: 3 Chinese murdered, set their bodies, warehouse on fire

Anger against the Chinese is on the rise in Zambia, the biggest trader partner of China in Africa. Zambians have been complaining of racial discrimination in Chinese-run businesses and industries. In 2005, scores of native workers were killed in a blast at a mine managed by the Chinese near Chambeshi, a town in Zambia’s copperbelt. This triggered widespread anger.  Five years later, two Chinese managers opened fire on Zambian workers who were protesting bad labour conditions at the Collum coal mine. In 2012, Zambian workers killed a Chinese supervisor at the same mine.

The attackers first cut the bodies of their victims to pieces before throwing them into the fire.

On May 24, two Chinese men and one woman were beaten to death inside their textile warehouse in Lusaka by three Zambian attackers and threw their bodies into fire after setting ablaze the warehouse.

According to media reports, the attackers first cut the bodies of their victims to pieces before throwing them into the fire. It took three days for the Zambian authorities to retrieve their charred remains from the rubble. The woman, Cao Guifang, 52, is the wife of the textile warehouse owner while the other two Bao Junbin, 58, and Fan Minjie, 33, were employees.

China reacted with anger at the gruesome murder of its nationals.  Ambassador Li Jie made solemn representations to Joseph Malanji, Zambia’s minister of Foreign Affairs, strongly condemning the violent act. Li urged Zambian authorities to step up the investigation and severely punish those responsible, according to the law. He also urged the Zambia side to take effective measures to effectively maintain the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in Zambia.

A slew of incidents has taken race relations in the country to a new low. The Chinese are a hated lot. Lusaka Mayor Miles Sampa had accused Chinese bosses in the capital of “slavery reloaded,” used the derogatory term “Chinaman,” and, stoking racial divides, reminded the public in a video posted on his Facebook account that “black Zambians did not originate coronavirus. It originated in China”, reports CNN.

According to CNN, there are an estimated 22,000 Chinese nationals living in Zambia, operating 280 companies, mostly spread between Lusaka and the copperbelt in the north. Beijing owns about 44% of Zambia’s debt, which has led to fear among some Zambians that China has too much control over the country.

While police have not directly linked the murder to anti-Chinese sentiment, the crime came as a reminder of the violent outbursts some Chinese have faced while living in Zambia, a key partner for China along its coveted Belt and Road project.