Chinese Workers in Iraq Moved to Safety
By Josh Chin
June 28, 2014 7:55 a.m. ET
BEIJING—More than 1,200 Chinese workers trapped by the violence sweeping parts of Iraq this past week have been moved to safety in the Iraqi capital, the Chinese government said Saturday.
A statement on the Chinese foreign ministry's website said the workers, employed by China Machinery Engineering 1829.HK +0.22% Corporation, had been transferred to Baghdad from the northern city of Samarra with help from the Iraqi government and military.
Samarra, where the workers were building a fuel-oil power plant, lies in the center of the region north of Baghdad where Sunni Muslim insurgents associated with the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, have been battling the Iraqi army.
Chinese state media had earlier reported that a group of about 50 workers were transported out of Samarra to Baghdad by helicopter on Wednesday.
The remaining workers were transported out of Samarra by bus over the following two days, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. It said the workers are staying in a hotel in central Baghdad and are in good condition.
As China's economic reach has expanded and Chinese companies, entrepreneurs and tourists have fanned out across the globe, they have been frequently caught in trouble spots. The workers in Samarra were among more than 100,000 Chinese working in Iraq, most of them in areas that have been unaffected by the insurgency.
"At present, the vast majority of Chinese citizens in Iraq are in safe and controlled areas," the foreign ministry statement said. The ministry, it said, is monitoring developments and "will take timely measures to guarantee the safety of Chinese workers and companies there."
China has emerged as one of Iraq's most important commercial partners. The three main state oil companies have interests in the Iraq's energy sector, which supplies some 10% of China's total imported crude, according to the latest data available from China's customs administration.
China National Petroleum Corp., the country's largest oil company by production, has interests in three Iraqi oil fields, all of which are south of the Baghdad. In Iraq's northern Kurdistan region, Sinopec Group subsidiary Addax Petroleum holds a stake in the Taq Taq oil field, about 60 kilometers north of Kirkuk. Both companies said Friday that their operations were unaffected by the violence.