Workers In Sudan Not Yet Freed (Updated)

A Chinese embassy official told state media on Tuesday that all of the 29 abducted Chinese workers in Sudan remain missing, despite reports from Sudanese media on Monday claiming that 14 of the workers had been freed. From The Associated Press:

The Chinese ambassador to , Luo Xiaoguang, told China Central Television in an interview in Khartoum that anti-government attacked the road project the Chinese were working on.

“There are still Chinese workers missing. Some others are still being held by the anti-government armed forces,” Luo said.

Xinhua said 47 Chinese workers were caught in the attack in the South Kordofan region of Sudan. It said 29 were captured and the other 18 fled, and that one of those who fled remains missing.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing had no immediate comment Tuesday. A statement from the workers’ company, Sinohydro Corp., said that it and the Chinese Embassy would “spare no effort in ensuring the personal safety of those abducted and rescuing them.”

More details have emerged about the incident, which occurred amid a fight between the Sudanese army and SPLM-N rebels after the rebels attacked the work camp operated by . While the rebels claim they took the 29 missing workers and held then for their own safety, Reuters reported that 17 other Chinese nationals fled the scene and were taken to safety by the Sudanese army. 34 Chinese workers, including the 17 that had successfully escaped, were safely transported to Khartoum on Monday, according to China Daily.

Chinese in Africa are on alert, according to The Global Times, as the incident has exposed the potential dangers of China’s business activities in emerging markets:

Jiang Yong, a director of the Center for Economic Security Studies under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that although some Chinese institutions provide crisis evaluation services for investment destinations, results of the evaluation do not keep pace with the fast changing situation in those unstable regions.

“We need more sufficient and detailed analysis for those regions, and should have precautionary plans in place for all kinds of emergencies,” Jiang said Monday.

Yao Guimei, a researcher with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that huge risks and interests coexist for investment in .

“The security situation in Sudan is unstable. But that doesn’t mean Chinese enterprises should stop their investments there. They should be fully prepared for uncertainties. That said, the Sudanese authorities should also protect Chinese workers as they are involved in infrastructure projects to improve the local livelihood,” according to Yao.

Update: Sudanese officials have amended statements from Monday that it had freed nearly half of the 29 Chinese workers, statements which China has denied. From The Wall Street Journal:

The Sudan state news agency said early Tuesday that Sudanese forces had freed 13 Chinese workers kidnapped from a road-construction camp Saturday but that 29 remained in captivity. That was at odds with official statements Monday from the Sudanese news agency, which said 14 of the 29 had been rescued.

Still, many details of the incident remained unclear Tuesday. Sudan said there were 65 Chinese nationals in the camp at the time of the attack. The 13 freed and 23 who weren’t taken hostage were flown to Khartoum on Monday, the Sudanese military said.

In a statement Tuesday, the state-run Xinhua news agency said there were 47 Chinese workers at the camp when it was attacked, with 29 abducted while 18 others fled to neighboring areas.

Meanwhile, a delegation of Chinese officials departed for Sudan on Monday night to assist in securing the release of the workers.