The hopes of Chinese civil engineering firms that they would be able to return to abandoned construction projects in Libya appear to have been dashed for now. Commerce minister Chen Deming says it is too dangerous to return, and that China is seeking compensation from the new government in Tripoli, particularly for housing projects worth more than $10 billion that were completed or close to completion but suffered heavy artillery damage during the fighting.
Before the civil war that overthrew the Gaddafi regime started in February, 2011, some 75 Chinese companies, including 13 large state owned enterprises, were working on $19 billion worth of projects, mainly in oil services, railways, housing construction and telecoms. Evacuating more than 35,000 Chinese nationals from these in March last year was a source of some pride in Beijing. (A similar, though more-low profile and pre-emptive evacuation of Chinese workers in Syria is now underway, with 100 or so being left in the country to secure Chinese engineering projects as far as they can, and so minimize the sort of damage suffered in Libya.)
Chen’s comments about Libya followed the visit of an inspection team from his ministry that arrived in Tripoli earlier this month to assess the extent of the damage, and the prospects for Chinese engineering companies to return. China has, though, resumed its oil imports from Libya, which were interrupted by the civil war. It is expected to ship 140,000 barrels a day from Libya this year.
The parents of the first child to die from ingesting melamine-tainted infant formula has accepted compensation from Sanlu Group, the dairy company at the heart of the scandal, their lawyers say. They have taken the 200,000 yuan ($29,000) death payout under the standardized compensation scheme announced last month by China’s dairy association and the 22 dairy companies involved.
The couple give up their right to further legal action. Not so other parents who say the compensation levels are too low, even though lawyers quoted by Xinhua say that death compensation in Gansu, where the couple live, is typically 40,000 yuan. Parents in Guangdong province launched a lawsuit against Sanlu and the China Dairy Industry Association in October demanding 900,000 yuan, but the Guangzhou court wouldn’t hear the case.
Xinhua also says that more than 3,000 families in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, where Sanlu is based, have accepted the compensation package, quoting local government officials. The squeeze has been put on parents to take the money regardless of their reservations.
“Some parents were reluctant to accept the compensation package at the beginning, but they were persuaded and have since changed their minds,” a spokesman of the Shijiazhuang government said.
Six babies died and 296,000 children were sickened by the tainted milk. At the start of December, 861 children were still in hospital suffering from kidney stones or urinary problems. The health ministry has not updated the numbers since.