Rise in violent crime alarms Chinese in Angola

Wednesday November 11 2009

LUANDA (Reuters) - Robberies and other violent crimes against Chinese in Angola have risen dramatically, prompting many to leave the country and threatening to disrupt business between the two states, according to a Chinese business official.

Crime is a serious problem in Angola and, while most violent crime occurs between locals, foreigners have occasionally been attacked.

The head of the Chinese Business Council in Luanda, Xu Ning, said armed robberies, rapes and even murder were making life difficult for the Chinese, especially those living in the capital Luanda.

"In the past we would hear about a Chinese national being robbed once a month, but now it's happening every day," said Ning, whose organisation represents 40 companies in Angola.

"These crimes are turning violent now. Obviously, this is bad for business between Angola and China," he told Reuters.

Last month, three Chinese workers were robbed by a gang in the Cacuaco district on the outskirts of Luanda. Ning said the robbers poured boiling water over their victims.

On September 4, Xu Tonggou, a businessman from China's Zhejiang province, was shot dead in the district of Viana after he tried to resist a robbery.

On the same day, six armed men burst into a construction site of China's Jiangsu International Company in Luanda with assault rifles. They assaulted workers with batons before fleeing with three computers and cash.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot more crimes going on that we hear about but are not reported," said Ning.

He said many had left in recent months because of rising crime and the high cost of living in Luanda. The capital is considered to be one of the world's most expensive cities for foreigners.

Police and Foreign Ministry officials were not available for comment on Wednesday, a public holiday in Angola. The police force does not publish official crime figures.

A boom in trade between China and Africa has brought with it an influx of Chinese workers to the continent but this has not been without problems.

In Algeria, tension spilled over in August in a suburb of the capital, when about 100 residents and Chinese migrants fought with knives and bludgeons in a flare up of anger against Chinese immigration.

An estimated 100,000 Chinese workers live in Angola, laying railroad tracks, paving highways and building hotels and houses but no one knows for sure since there are no official figures.

The attacks have mostly taken place in the Benfica and Viana districts of Luanda, where there is a big community of Chinese construction workers.

The crimes could damage relations between Angola and China, which imports more of its crude oil from Angola than any other country. China has granted Angola more than $5 billion in oil-backed loans to rebuild infrastructure after a 27-year civil war which ended in 2002.