Zambian police quiz opposition leader over attacks on Chinese nationals

Lusaka – Zambian police on Tuesday questioned opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema for allegedly fuelling attacks on Chinese nationals, in a sign of growing political tension in the country.

Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development, was detained in 2017 for four months for allegedly treason, a case many critics said was politically motivated.

Hichilema has never conceded the result of the 2016 election, challenging the outcome, where he lost to President Edgar Lungu.

Charity Katanga, the police chief of Copperbelt province, said Hichilema was questioned after he alleged that the government had sold a state-run timber company to Chinese interests, resulting in street protests in Zambia’s second city Kitwe.

The protests led to some Chinese businesses being lootwd, with hundreds of protesters being arrested.

Anti-Chinese sentiment has grown in Zambia over the years, largely due lucrative contracts being awarded to China and government increasingly lending from the second largest economy in the world.

“He has been cautioned for sedition,” Katanga told AFP. “In an interview aired by Sun-FM, he alleged that government has sold Zaffico to the Chinese when in fact it has not.

“His statement caused discontent among residents and caused riots targeted at the Chinese. He has been warned to not incite ethnicity attacks.”

Hichilema come to the police station in the Copperbelt capital, Ndola, with party deputy Geoffrey Mwamba, a team of lawyers and Chishimba Kambwili, a Lungu critic from the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party.

“It’s about standing for the people of Zambia. If you are afraid, you should not seek public office,” Hichilema told reporters after his release.

“And as per our constitutional right, we decided to remain silent during the interrogation process.”

Police blocked the entrance to the police station, to prevent hundreds of party supporters from entering the building.

President Lungu critic’s have accused him of piling up on foreign debt and cracking down on opposition since winning the election.

Photo credit- The Independent Uganda

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