Chinese workers freed in Egypt.
Chinese workers freed in Egypt Reuters

The Bedouin men who kidnapped 25 Chinese workers in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula have freed their captives and left them unharmed on Wednesday.

The group of Chinese cement workers were captured Tuesday and held hostage for about 15 hours before their release. After being released, they were returned to their hotel in el-Arish.

One of the workers, named Pan, told Xinhua News Agency they were nervous but relieved that Chinese diplomats kept in contact with them throughout their captivity via cellphone text messages. In addition to keeping lines of communication open, the Chinese embassy was able to send provisions through the auspices of local residents.

Pan thanked the Chinese government, embassy, as well as Egyptian authorities for their rescue and commented: We had expected the problem be solved in one or two days. But it was settled so quickly. We felt we were like dreaming a dream.

On Tuesday, the Chinese workers were on their way to a military-owned cement factory in the Lehfen area when they were abducted by armed Bedouin tribesmen. The kidnappers demanded the release of five relatives who were jailed for a 2004 bombing attack at the Red Sea resort of Taba. The attack killed 31 people.

In Sudan, there remain 29 Chinese workers still held in captivity.

As the second abduction of Chinese workers in several days, the kidnapping in Egypt reflects the rising threat facing Chinese as they send more citizens abroad. Through China's Going-Out Policy, the Chinese have pushed initiatives for foreign investments. This policy has encouraged a sharp increase of overseas Chinese workers around the world, even in volatile regions, such as Sudan and Egypt.

MIT Professor Taylor Fravel told Bloomberg News: Chinese companies tend to operate in environments where others dare not go, hence it may appear as if they are more likely to be kidnapped. Indeed, the Sudan abduction of Chinese workers was the third one since 2004.

As China continues to seek natural resources to fuel its growing economy and population, it will risk further engagements with energy-rich countries. Although the kidnappings of Chinese working abroad have occurred in the past, their increased frequency challenge China's central government to further involve itself in overseas missions to ensure the safety of its citizens.