The government Tuesday condemned the killing of four kidnapped Chinese workers in Sudan and urged Khartoum to catch and punish the killers.
Of the nine Chinese oil workers kidnapped earlier this month in Southern Kordofan State - which borders Darfur - four were killed on Monday, four have been rescued and one is missing, the Foreign Ministry said.
"We express strong indignation and condemn the inhumane terrorist act of killing the unarmed Chinese workers," spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular press conference.
She urged the Sudanese government to continue efforts to find the missing worker, punish the murderers and take all measures to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals in the country.
The Chinese embassy said the workers of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) were snatched by unknown militants from an oil field in Southern Kordofan State, but no armed group had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
CNPC leads a consortium, which also includes companies from India and Malaysia as well as Sudan's state-owned Sudapet, working on the field.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao had earlier ordered the Foreign Ministry to do its utmost to rescue the victims, Jiang said.
Liu Guijin, the Chinese government's special representative on the Darfur issue, reached Khartoum last Friday, and the Foreign Ministry had urged the joint working group in Sudan to try and ensure the safe return of the men.
"The Chinese Foreign Ministry and other departments have made the utmost efforts for their return," Jiang said.
The reason for the killings is unclear; and Khartoum has denied any confrontation between the security forces and the kidnappers. The kidnappers had earlier reportedly asked for a share in the energy-rich region's oil installations.
"Such ugly acts are against the values of the Sudanese people. The Sudanese authorities will spare no efforts in protecting the workers in the oil fields and all investments in Sudan," Sudanese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ali al-Sadiq said yesterday.
Khartoum has blamed a Darfur rebel group for the crime, but the group denied the accusation.
The Sudanese government said that the bodies of the deceased were being flown to Khartoum and will later be brought back to Beijing. The survivors were on board the same plane.
This is the third attack on Chinese nationals in Sudan during the past year but all those kidnapped previously were returned safely.
Dai Yan, a former Chinese diplomat posted in Ghana, said Chinese enterprises should be more cautious, but added the incident would not undermine friendly relations between China and Sudan.