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    Reporters Without Borders said in it’s 2005 special report titled “Xinhua: the world’s biggest propaganda agency”, that “Xinhua remains the voice of the sole party”, “particularly during the SARS epidemic, Xinhua has for last few months been putting out news reports embarrassing to the government, but they are designed to fool the international community, since they are not published in Chinese.”
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How China has created a new slave empire in Africa (3)

Posted by Author on October 15, 2008

By PETER HITCHENS, Daily Mail, UK, 28th September 2008- (Cont’d)

Recently, a government minister, Alice Simago, was shown weeping on TV after she saw at first hand the working conditions at a Chinese-owned coal mine in the Southern Province.

When I contacted her, she declined to speak to me about this – possibly because criticism of the Chinese is not welcome among most of the Zambian elite.

Denis Lukwesa, deputy general secretary of the Zambian Mineworkers’ Union, also backed up Sata’s view, saying: ‘They just don’t understand about safety. They are more interested in profit.’

As for their general treatment of African workers, Lukwesa says he knows of cases where Chinese supervisors have kicked Zambians. He summed up their attitude like this: ‘They are harsh to Zambians, and they don’t get on well with them.’

Sata warns against the enormous loans and offers of help with transport, schools and health care with which Peking now sweetens its attempts to buy up Africa’s mineral reserves.

‘China’s deal with the Democratic Republic of the Congo is, in my opinion, corruption,’ he says, comparing this with Western loans which require strong measures against corruption.

Everyone in Africa knows China’s Congo deal – worth almost £5billion in loans, roads, railways, hospitals and schools – was offered after Western experts demanded tougher anti-corruption measures in return for more aid.

Sata knows the Chinese are unpopular in his country. Zambians use a mocking word – ‘choncholi’ – to describe the way the Chinese speak. Zambian businessmen gossip about the way the Chinese live in separate compounds, where – they claim – dogs are kept for food.

There are persistent rumours, which cropped up in almost every conversation I had in Zambia, that many of the imported Chinese workforce are convicted criminals whom China wants to offload in Africa. I was unable to confirm this but, given China’s enormous gulag and the harshness of life for many migrant workers, it is certainly not impossible.

Sata warns that ‘sticks and stones’ may one day fly if China does not treat Zambians better. He now promises a completely new approach: ‘I used to sweep up at your Victoria Station, and I never got any complaints about my work. I want to sweep my country even cleaner than I swept your stations.’

Some Africa experts tend to portray Sata as a troublemaker. His detractors whisper that he is a mouthpiece for Taiwan, which used to be recognised by many African states but which faces almost total isolation thanks to Peking’s new Africa policy.

But his claims were confirmed by a senior worker in Chambishi, scene of the 2005 explosion. This man, whom I will call Thomas, is serious, experienced and responsible. His verdict on the Chinese is devastating.

He recalls the aftermath of the blast, when he had the ghastly task of collecting together what remained of the men who died: ‘Zambia, a country of 11million people, went into official mourning for this disaster.

‘A Chinese supervisor said to me in broken English, “In China, 5,000 people die, and there is nothing. In Zambia, 50 people die and everyone is weeping.” To them, 50 people are nothing.’

This sort of thing creates resentment. Earlier this year African workers at the new Chinese smelter at Chambishi rioted over low wages and what they thought were unsafe working conditions.

When Chinese President Hu Jintao came to Zambia in 2006, he had to cancel a visit to the Copper Belt for fear of hostile demonstrations. Thomas says: ‘The people who advised Hu Jintao not to come were right.’

He suspects Chinese arrogance and brutality towards Africans is not racial bigotry, but a fear of being seen to be weak. ‘They are trying to prove they are not inferior to the West. They are trying too hard.

‘If they ask you to do something and you don’t do it, they think you’re not doing it because they aren’t white. People put up with the kicks and blows because they need work to survive.’

Many in Africa also accuse the Chinese of unconcealed corruption. This is specially obvious in the ‘Democratic Republic of the Congo’, currently listed as the most corrupt nation on Earth.

A North-American businessman who runs a copper smelting business in Katanga Province told me how his firm tried to obey safety laws.

They are constantly targeted by official safety inspectors because they refuse to bribe them. Meanwhile, Chinese enterprises nearby get away with huge breaches of the law – because they paid bribes.

‘We never pay,’ he said, ‘because once you pay you become their bitch; you will pay for ever and ever.’

Another businessman shrugged over the way he is forced to wait weeks to get his products out of the country, while the Chinese have no such problems.

‘I’m not sure the Chinese even know there are customs regulations,’ he said. ‘They don’t fill in the forms, they just pay. I try to be philosophical about it, but it is not easy.’

Unlike orderly Zambia, Congo is a place of chaos, obvious privation, tyranny dressed up as democracy for public-relations purposes, and fear.

This is Katanga, the mineral-rich slice of land fought over furiously in the early Sixties in post-colonial Africa’s first civil war. Brooding over its capital, Lubumbashi, is a 400ft black hill: the accumulated slag and waste of 80 years of copper mining and smelting.

Now, thanks to a crazy rise in the price of copper and cobalt, the looming, sinister mound is being quarried – by Western business, by the Chinese and by bands of Congolese who grub and scramble around it searching for scraps of copper or traces of cobalt, smashing lumps of slag with great hammers as they hunt for any way of paying for that night’s supper.

As dusk falls and the shadows lengthen, the scene looks like the blasted land of Mordor in Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings: a pre-medieval prospect of hopeless, condemned toil in pits surrounded by stony desolation.

Behind them tower the leaning ruins of colossal abandoned factories: monuments to the wars and chaos that have repeatedly passed this way.

There is something strange and unsettling about industrial scenes in Africa, pithead winding gear and gaunt chimneys rising out of tawny grasslands dotted with anthills and banana palms. It looks as if someone has made a grave mistake.

And there is a lesson for colonial pride and ambition in the streets of Lubumbashi – 80 years ago an orderly Art Deco city full of French influence and supervised by crisply starched gendarmes, now a genial but volatile chaos of scruffy, bribe-hunting traffic cops where it is not wise to venture out at night.

The once-graceful Belgian buildings, gradually crumbling under thick layers of paint, long ago lost their original purpose.

Outsiders come and go in Africa, some greedy, some idealistic, some halfway between. Time after time, they fail or are defeated, leaving behind scars, slag-heaps, ruins and graveyards, disillusion and disappointment.

We have come a long way from Cecil Rhodes to Bob Geldof, but we still have not brought much happiness with us, and even Nelson Mandela’s vaunted ‘Rainbow Nation’ in South Africa is careering rapidly towards banana republic status.

Now a new great power, China, is scrambling for wealth, power and influence in this sad continent, without a single illusion or pretence.

Perhaps, after two centuries of humbug, this method will work where all other interventions have failed.

But after seeing the bitter, violent desperation unleashed in the mines of Likasi, I find it hard to believe any good will come of it. (END)

Part-1 Part-2 Part-3

– from Daily Mail, UK

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