Mysterious Killing of Chinese Gold Miners Puts New Pressure on Beijing – by Nicole Hong and Elian Peltier (New York Times – May 15, 2023)

The massacre of nine workers in the Central African Republic and other recent attacks raise questions about China’s ability to protect its citizens overseas.

The Chinese embassy in the Central African Republic had a stark warning for its compatriots in the landlocked nation: Do not leave the capital city of Bangui. Kidnappings of foreigners were on the rise, and any Chinese person outside of Bangui was to leave those areas immediately. Less than a week later, on March 19, a group of gunmen stormed a remote gold mine far away from Bangui and killed nine Chinese workers.

The Central African government has said that it investigated the massacre and concluded that a leading rebel group had orchestrated it. The rebels have denied the allegation and blamed a third party that operates in the country — Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, which has in turn accused the rebels. None of the sides has presented evidence for its claims.

The investigation has left a trail of unanswered questions about the motives and methods of the attackers. More than a dozen Central African soldiers were supposed to be protecting the site, according to a diplomat briefed on the investigation, but on the day of the attack, only four of them were there and all survived.

The victims have not been identified, and their bodies were cremated shortly after the attack. One local mayor said the workers were shot at close range. A photo shared by local and Western officials based in the country showed how the assailants left the bodies face down in a row in the rust-colored mud, as if to send a message.

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