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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Zambians condemn China meddling
Opposition candidate Michael Sata
Michael Sata is seen as a strong candidate in this month's polls
Zambian commentators have condemned China, after its ambassador got involved in the campaign for this month's presidential election.

Political Analyst Michael Banda said Ambassador Li Baodong's comments were "shocking and unacceptable".

Mr Li had said Chinese investors were "scared" to go to Zambia in case opposition leader Michael Sata won.

Mr Sata has said foreign companies, including Chinese, mistreat workers and has also met Taiwanese businessmen.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and cuts diplomatic ties with any country which recognises Taiwan's independence.

China is a major investor in Zambia's key copper industry.

Campaign funds

Mr Sata is one of the strongest challengers to President Levy Mwanawasa in the 28 September elections.

Mr Mwanawasa's allies had accused him of trying to raise campaign funds from the Taiwanese.

He denied this, saying the meeting was about a business venture.

But Ambassador Li was quoted in the state-owned Daily Mail as saying: "Chinese investors in mining, construction and tourism have put on hold further investments until the uncertainty surrounding our bilateral relations with Zambia is cleared."

That apparent interference in the election campaign has angered some prominent Zambians.

"It is shocking that the Chinese embassy can blatantly try and influence the outcome of the elections against the PF (Patriotic Front), just because the leader of that party held talks with Taiwanese businessmen. This is unacceptable even as a basic rule in diplomacy," said Mr Banda.

Trade union leader Francis Mumba agreed:

"This is what happens in a country where those in authority give too much power to donors and investors."

The BBC's Musonda Chibamba in the capital, Lusaka, says there has been a recent increase in businessmen from China setting up shops and other forms of trading in many parts of the country.

She says some Chinese investors have invested in mining and manufacturing but their operations have been far from smooth, with constant industrial disputes amidst allegations of poor working conditions.

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