Zambia and China are in a diplomatic row following the arrest of 31 Chinese nationals. The arrests were made in a joint operation between the Zambian police and immigration authorities in a town 200km from the capital Lusaka.
The arrested people are facing charges which include the employment of children and running of unlicensed smelting plants.
The Times of Zambia reports that the Home Affairs Minister, Stephen Kampyongo, supported the raid.
"We are here to put to an end this criminality. Foreign investors who come into this country must work within the confines of the law. Those who break the law will be flushed out," he is quoted saying.
The Chinese foreign ministry director-general for African affairs, Lin Songtian, has spoken against the arrests. He said while China supports measures to deal with illegal mining, the Zambian authorities had not provided strong evidence for the arrests of the 31 nationals, Reuters reports.
This is the latest high profile case between Zambians and Chinese in the country who have invested heavily in the mining sector.
Previously, two Chinese managers were accused of attempted murder after firing at miners during a pay dispute. The charges were later dropped. In 2012, Zambian miners killed a Chinese manager in a riot again over pay.