Ghana has released 124 of the Chinese gold miners it arrested for immigration violations, according to the Chinese embassy, with immigration authorities promising to release the remaining 45 detainees on Monday. From Mimi Lau of the South China Morning Post:
The embassy announced the news on its website on Saturday, accompanied by a warning to Chinese gold miners in the country, advising those who have been targeted in a Ghanaian government crackdown to purchase plane tickets and return to China as soon as possible.
“After reaching a consensus with Ghanaian authorities, Ghana has promised to abandon its recent crackdown outside mine sites and to provide assistance to Chinese miners who are willing to leave,” the embassy said. [Source]
Despite the promise to grant safe passage to other Chinese miners who agree to leave Ghana, family members back home told Kathrin Hille and Xan Rice of the Financial Times that loved ones in Ghana “still feared for their lives:”
A woman in Mingliang, a town in Shanglin county, said her two sons and her son-in-law were hiding in a small room with more than 20 other Chinese miners in Dunkwa, a town in central Ghana.
“People there come after you now if you are Chinese, so they can’t even leave the room,” said the woman, who gave her surname as Mo. “The locals will steal their money and maybe even kill them. How can they get to the airport safely?” [Source]
The incident “raises uncomfortable questions” about China’s economic strategy in Africa, writes Fei Wang. From The Atlantic:
Despite the hopes for jobs and income in Ghana, gold miners from Shanglin face an array of risks on a daily basis. Chinese nationals are often the managers and technical specialists of their mining operations, while employees hired locally in Ghana carry out most of the manual labor. Burglaries and mugging are of common occurrence at the gold mines, and lives have been lost during armed robberies.
Additionally, regulations issued by the Ghanaian government do not favor Chinese gold mine investments. According to Toni Aubynn, CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, licenses to operate small-scale mines are only issued to Ghanaian nationals, but foreigners can provide technical support and equipment. Therefore, Ghanaian-owned small-scale mining operations seek Chinese funding and equipment. Many Chinese nationals have flooded into the gold mining industry seeking business opportunities without understanding the licensing issues.
The most recent wave of arrests targeting illegal Chinese gold miners in Ghana has brought attention to a group of individuals too often overlooked while discussing China’s involvement in Africa. These gold miners are not associated with the state-owned enterprises that are the most influential in Africa, and their personal security is not guaranteed. Like the gold miners from Shanglin, many Chinese nationals choose to migrate, despite the risks, for job opportunities on an unfamiliar continent. For the Chinese government, how these individuals’ lives will be protected is a new challenge, and one that is going to linger as China continues to expand into a variety of sectors in Africa and elsewhere. [Source]