Samoa in uproar over strange Chinese company

Last updated 15:26 08/06/2013

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Samoa's prime minister says he has kept secret a visit by a large Chinese business delegation demanding 160 year leases over big swathes of land and the right to bring in 30,000 people.  

"I kept this from the media because I know that once the media hears about this, then they are full of smart people who will go and waste time asking stupid questions to stupid companies like this," Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele says.

But as is typical of a nation of just 170,000 people, the secret activity of the "Beijing Zhao Yi Li Investment Management Co Ltd" soon got out - and sparked outrage.

Talamua website said their 10 strong delegation was heading to Savai'i after presenting the government with a list of 17 demands.

Among them they wanted land for hotels and villages on 160 year leases, land from the government for an airport, port, hospital, school and nursery and the right to keep anybody from using them other than the Chinese.

They would have an exclusive casino license and the right to bring in 30,000 workers with the same status as Samoans.

One of the odder conditions was that all road signs in Samoa in future be in Chinese, English and Samoan.

Earlier this year another Chinese group were given the right by the government to build a 500-room hotel on 202 hectares south of Apia, along with a casino and a golf course. The company's CEO returned to China however and was arrested.

In the latest case Tuilaepa is cryptic about what he knows, telling a press conference he had kept the latest company visit quiet, saying it was a "fantasy."

"What amazes me is that you all come here with your questions, when that is the reality, there are thousands of people like that who come and promise riches."

He urged people to wait and see what happened.

"Those sorts of companies, if they can build a two room hotel, I would be happy. If they can just manage that, two rooms, to create jobs for three people, I would believe that more than a promise of a hundred rooms."

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