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Lusaka — Zhang Daliu, 46, a carpenter from China never imagined himself in the dreadful confines of a stinking and overcrowded Zambian jail where conditions are so terrible that they lead to gastronomic disorders and skin diseases within days of confinement.
But that is how the dice has fallen for Zhang and three other expatriate Chinese artisans: Hong Pin Liu, 46, a carpenter; Yang Gang Qiang, 36, a welder; and Zhu Xiang, 51, a bricklayer. The four men are facing a possible life imprisonment should they be convicted of indecent assault and sex with a minor, after charges were brought against them by prosecutors in Luanshya, a town on the southern fringes of Zambia's mineral-rich Copperbelt Province. Each charge carries a minimum jail term of 15 years with hard labour, with a maximum life sentence.
The four men are accused of having sex with young girls under the age of 16, the legal age of consent in Zambia, in exchange for money. This sex scandal has started a heated debate in this Southern African country, with some accusing the girls of bringing shame on Zambians by turning to prostitution at such an early age. Others feel that the problems of poverty and desperation prevalent in Luanshya, which forced the young girls into prostitution, first began during the corrupt regime of former President Frederick Chiluba.
Chiluba sold Luanshya's copper mine in to the Indian Binani Industries for just 35 million dollars during the privatisation of the country's mines. Barely three years after the sale, it fell under receivership and more than 6, miners lost their jobs.
This triggered massive poverty and hardship in Luanshya, and for the next six years few could afford to feed themselves and their families. While the sale of the mine meant that there would be jobs again, it also led to the influx of Chinese workers.