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Chinese abroad must have same protection as at home

By Chen Chenchen (Global Times)

08:39, August 28, 2012

Thirty-seven suspected Chinese gangsters, repatriated from Angola at the weekend, will face trial in China on charges of kidnapping, robbing and extorting their compatriots. This marks a new step by the Chinese government in protecting its citizens abroad.

The task facing China at the moment seems especially thorny. Some foreign observers have commented that the troubles afflicting overseas Chinese workers in Africa and the Middle East are often aggravated by the highly volatile environment in these areas. As a late economic bloomer, China has to dig up gold from troubled sands as it looks for business opportunities abroad. Providing protection for Chinese individuals in unstable parts poses serious challenges. This is much more complex and trivial than national security in the traditional sense.

Take Angola, an oil-rich country in southern Africa where the local Chinese population has soared to close to 260,000. This growing community has been preyed on by Chinese gangsters in the last couple of years. In 2011, there were 14 kidnapping cases targeting Chinese, leading to five killed and eight injured. Shootings, arson, robberies and forced prostitution that local Chinese have suffered in recent years have sparked huge panic. This situation is not unique to Angola, as the Chinese presence increases across the world.

China cannot afford to take a soft touch in this matter. It has already faced several tests. The large-scale evacuation of Chinese citizens from Libya in February 2011 was a successful example. Previously Chinese citizens were victims of attacks by foreign offenders. But what has happened in Angola shows that the criminal actions of Chinese gangsters have expanded to foreign countries to target their compatriots. This further complicates the issue of overseas Chinese protection, and calls for greater collaboration with local police forces.

In April, the Chinese authorities signed an agreement with their Angolan counterparts to consolidate cooperation in safeguarding public safety and order. A special police force was soon dispatched to Angola to investigate and crack down on Chinese gangsters together with local police. A joint command headquarters was also established. All these led to the dismantling of 12 Chinese gangs and the latest series of repatriation.

China should draw both lessons and experiences from the latest crackdown campaign in Angola, and organize more such cooperation in the future. The nation has to increase its commitment to protecting overseas citizens and minimize the human costs of its rise.

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