China said Tuesday that two Chinese coal mine managers who were arrested in Zambia for allegedly shooting 12 local workers had hurt the Zambians "mistakenly".
The two Chinese nationals have been charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting randomly at the Zambian miners after they protested poor working conditions at their Chinese-run mine on Friday.
The incident has raised a political storm, with opposition leader Michael Sata accusing the Chinese in the country of being untouchable because they are funding the ruling party ahead of next year's elections.
However, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the managers of the private company had "mistakenly hurt several local workers", while promising to cooperate with Zambia on the case.
"We will proceed from the overall interests of our friendly relations with Zambia, continue our close cooperation and properly handle the aftermath according to law," Ma said when asked for comment at a news briefing.
The injured workers at the Chinese-run Collum Coal Mine were hospitalised after the incident. The two Chinese suspects will appear in court soon, a Zambian government official told AFP.
Investment from China has been on the rise in Zambia, with several copper and coal mines bought by Chinese firms.
Africa has seen a wave of Chinese investment, despite criticism in the West that Beijing was blatantly ignoring human rights abuses, and environment and corruption issues in some countries as it lunges for the continent's resources.
China pumped 9.3 billion dollars into Africa by the end of 2009, a government report said last week, and Chinese officials have vowed the push would continue.
In particular, China has been criticised by the West over its support for regimes such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, which have been accused of human rights abuses, but many African leaders praise Beijing for not preaching to them on rights.
Ma said China's embassy in Lusaka had asked the Chinese-run company to "properly handle the dispute."