“The attack occurred on a military convoy. It’s very unclear as to how that involved Chinese construction workers,” Barry Sautman, a China-Africa expert, told RFI.
Power Construction Corp of China said yesterday that it had set up an emergency working group to monitor developments, according to the Chinese state Xinhua news agency.
In a statement, China’s ministry of commerce urged companies and personnel in Sudan to “pay close attention” to the security situation.
The Chinese foreign ministry is in contact with the Sudanese authorities, who are taking measures to protect Chinese interests.
“Currently the Sudanese government is doing their utmost to locate and rescue the missing Chinese nationals and has increased protection for other Chinese nationals in Sudan,” said Liu Weimin, a foreign ministry spokesperson, according to Xinhua.
Diplomatic efforts by China to free the workers could prove difficult, according to Sautman.
“It will both push the Sudanese government to do all it can and there would probably be some contact with rebel groups,” said the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology academic.
“The Chinese government does have good relations with South Sudan,” he said. “As for making use of the government in Khartoum, in that regard, it’s a little more tricky, because the government in Khartoum obviously has an antagonistic relationship with the captors,” Sautman added.
China is Sudan’s major trading partner, the largest buyer of Sudanese oil, and an important supplier of military equipment to Khartoum.