Abducted Chinese workers released

Updated: 2012-02-08 07:25

By Zhou Wa and Cui Haipei (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed on Tuesday evening that the 29 Chinese workers kidnapped last month by Sudanese anti-government forces have been released and arrived in Nairobi.

"The 29 persons are currently in sound physical condition and a stable mood," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Chinese workers arrived in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, at 10:35 pm (Beijing Time ) with the escort of a Chinese government task group and Chinese diplomats based overseas, the statement said.

According to earlier reports, the Chinese workers embarked on a plane chartered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and left the area controlled by anti-government forces in Sudan on Tuesday evening.

The freed workers will receive a physical examination and have a brief rest in Nairobi before flying home, the statement said.

The release followed a stream of intensive rescue efforts carried out by the Chinese government in cooperation with the Sudanese government and other parties.

The 29 captives had been held since Jan 28, when a group of 47 Chinese workers were separated from their colleagues while working on a multi-million dollar road project in Sudan's South Kordofan state, where clashes between the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) and the Sudanese army have been ongoing for months.

The Sudanese army found 17 workers and transferred them to safety. One Chinese worker died of gunshot wounds.

Their employer, SCL, has a $63 million road project in the area. It evacuated its remaining staff to safer locations. The company said it would also start evaluating the safety situation and improve security measures at its other operations in Sudan.

After the incident, China called for the immediate release of the workers, and sent a Foreign Ministry-led working group to Sudan to assist their rescue.

Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng on Jan 31 called on Sudan to help free the 29 Chinese workers who were being held by the SPLA-N.

Xie summoned the Sudanese charge d'affaires in Beijing and lodged urgent representations to the African nation over the incident. He said China was "deeply shocked" by the incident, according to a statement released on the Foreign Ministry's website.

It marked the third case of abduction of Chinese in Sudan since 2004 and highlighted the risks facing Chinese nationals working abroad.

Hao Hongshe, commercial counselor of the Chinese embassy in Sudan, pointed out that as part of their "going out" strategy, more and more Chinese companies are exploring and expanding business opportunities in developing countries, some of which are poor and politically unstable.

On prevention measures, Hao suggested that Chinese companies take measures to raise the safety awareness of Chinese workers overseas and increase their investment in security.

In case of security incidents, Han suggested companies first inform Chinese embassies and take appropriate measures to help workers deal with them.

"Chinese companies should not only focus on business, but also study more about the culture, religions, ethnic groups and political situations in foreign countries," said Dong Manyuan, an expert in anti-terrorism at the China Institute of International Studies.