The shooting of two Zimbabwean workers by a Chinese mine owner reflects the “systematic and widespread” abuse that locals face in mining operations run by Chinese in the country, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Society (ZELA) has said.
The incident took place on last Sunday.
Zhang Xuen shot an employee five times and wounded another at the mine which he runs in Gweru province, in central Zimbabwe, during a row with workers over outstanding pay, CNN reported citing a court affidavit.
Zhang has been charged with attempted murder, said Zimbabwe police spokesman Paul Nyathi.
According to local media reports, Zhang did not enter a plea because there was no approved interpreter in court. He will remain in custody until at least July 7, the report said.
In a statement on Wednesday, ZELA said locals in some Chinese-owned mines often operate “dangerous, harsh, and life-threatening” conditions, while being paid poorly for their time.
Sunday’s shooting is another reason for the government to rethink its political and economic engagements with China, the group said.
“In many parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe, Chinese mining investors have exhibited a history of bad safety, health, environmental, labor, and human rights standards,” the statement said.
The shooting took place when miner Kenneth Tachiona confronted Zhang after the latter refused to pay the wages in US dollar as per agreement.
Tachiona moved toward Zhang, who then drew his gun, shooting the worker three times on his right thigh and twice on the left, according to the affidavit.
Police said Zhang fired another shot at workers, and one of the bullets grazed the chin of a member of staff, CNN said in a report. The wounded workers are being treated at a private hospital.
The Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe described the shooting as an isolated incident and said it was in support of an open and transparent probe by local authorities.
“Any possible illegal acts and persons who violate the law should not be shielded. China and Zimbabwe have a long-standing friendship and cooperation. We call upon all relevant sides to safeguard it jealously and carefully,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement on Twitter.
China is Zimbabwe’s largest foreign investor. However, its presence in the country has been deemed controversial.
Both Chinese-run mines in the country and state mining operations have been accused of human rights violations and poor safety measures for staff.