Africans in China: We face coronavirus discrimination

Africans in China: We face coronavirus discrimination

Five months earlier, the Nigerian student had moved to Guangzhou, southern China, to study computing at Guangdong university. He had just paid his university fees for the new semester when his landlord informed him that he needed to leave.

He scrambled to pack his belongings. The police were waiting for him and his roommates outside.

‘In hiding’

When he attempted to drop off his bags at a friend’s warehouse, he was prevented from entering. He spent several nights sleeping on the streets.

“Look how they are treating us, how they forced us out of our houses and forced us to self-quarantine,” he told the BBC from a hotel in the city.

“They told me that the [test] result is out and I am negative. Still they don’t want me to go out.”

Notice in McDonald's restaurant saying "We've been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant".
McDonald’s in China apologised after a branch in Guangzhou barred black people from entering

African community leaders in Guangzhou believe the vast majority of the city’s African population have been forced into quarantine or are sleeping on the streets.

“Some are in hiding,” said one community leader over an encrypted social media app.

Every African national tested

In early April, online rumours began to circulate that parts of the city where Africans live and trade were under lockdown after two Nigerians who had tested positive for the virus escaped. Chinese media reported that a Nigerian patient had attacked a Chinese nurse.

The health commission began widespread testing of African nationals.

The local authority says it has tested every African national in the city for the coronavirus. It found that 111 of the more than 4,500 Africans in Guangzhou tested positive.

“They just came with their ambulance and medical team and took us. All they said was that it was Chinese law and an order from the government,” said Hao*, a businessman from Ivory Coast.

Closed African restaurant is seen in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China, 13 April 2020.
Businesses in Guangzhou, including in the area popular with Africans, have been shut because of coronavirus fears

Guangzhou has become a hub for Africans in China.

Towards the end of the century’s first decade, hundreds of thousands were thought to live in the city. Many of them entering the country on short-term visas to buy goods from nearby factories and send them back to the continent.

By some estimates there were more than 200,000 dwelling in the city. Some settled for the long term. Many overstayed their visas.

‘Africans friendly with locals’

In recent years, the numbers have dwindled. Businessmen have complained of unfair visa restrictions and unfair treatment. In 2018, small hotels in Xiao Bei Lu, a popular area for African traders, temporarily turned away Africans from several nations, they told the BBC.

“Most of the Africans living there are nice and friendly with the locals, and they are doing business as normal for the past years,” said one Guangzhou resident who did not want to be named.

“If there is a problem, it may be that some Africans are overstaying and doing some illegal things.

“The conflict over the virus test, I think it is something of a misunderstanding. It is not about racial discrimination. That’s not the style of the Guangzhou people,” he said.

“People are not hostile to Africans in their mind, unless some Africans are doing things against the local rules,” he added.

The Chinese government dismissed claims of racism, insisting China and Africa are friends, partners and brothers and that it has zero tolerance to racism.

But many of those the BBC spoke to say they have been singled out because of their race.

“Ninety-eight per cent of Africans are in quarantine,” said one community leader who did not want to be named.

Source: BBC

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