CHOMA, Zambia (Reuters) - A court in Zambia on Tuesday agreed to free on bail two Chinese managers accused of attempted murder for shooting and wounding 11 coal miners during a protest over pay and working conditions.
Magistrate Willie Sinyangwe rejected a plea by prosecutors but said the two managers at the Chinese-owned Collum Mine Ltd, 325 km (200 miles) south of the capital Lusaka, must surrender their passports.
The managers were detained on October 17. They initially remained in detention after failing to draw enough money from commercial banks in the small town of Choma to pay bail of 50 million Zambian kwacha each. Their lawyer said they were unlikely to post the sum before Wednesday.
Chinese companies have not enjoyed an easy ride in Zambia, where workers, unions and opposition politicians frequently accuse them of abuses and of paying poor wages.
In 2005, five Zambians were shot and wounded by managers during pay-related riots at the Chinese-owned Chambishi mine in the northerly Copperbelt Province.
The managers were visibly relieved when a Chinese interpreter told them that they would be released when they posted bail plus personal sureties from two other parties.
Zambian President Rupiah Banda called for calm last month after the shooting of the 11 workers sparked broad condemnation of Chinese firms by unions and opposition parties.
Collum Mine supplies coal to mines in the Copperbelt and to Zambia’s largest cement producer, a unit of France’s Lafarge.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said last month that China has always required its companies to adhere to local laws and regulations.