It’s no longer news that Africans living in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, which has the largest black community in China, are being evicted from their homes or forced into isolation, even though they had no recent travel history or known contact with infected patients of the coronavirus by the Guangzhou local authorities. The situation is so bad that local hotels and restaurants are refusing service to Africans. Even the local McDonald’s branch put up a sign saying Blacks not allowed (they have since apologized and opened services to Africans).
The situation was bad enough for the US Consulate in Guangzhou to warn African-Americans to avoid travel to the city, citing the local government’s discrimination against people who appear to be of African origin.
The mayor of Guangzhou has now woken up to his responsibilities and seems to be fighting an uphill battle with residents and local companies to reverse the trend. A meeting was held with community leaders on the 8th of April and are trying to resolve the situation.
What started this whole incident was a Nigerian resident was in quarantine because he tested positive for Covid-19. They wanted to treat him but he refused medication probably thinking the Chinese wanted to poison him (probably digested too much conspiracy theories spawn by his countrymen against China) and wanted to leave. A nurse tried to stop him and he assaulted the nurse including biting her in the face. She now possibly has COVID-19 from the assault. A video of this incident was posted to social media and the Chinese were highly incensed.
Furthermore, on April 7, the Guangzhou government said five more Nigerians tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting multiple public venues thereby potentially spreading the virus. News reports about the cases prompted a wave of racist comments online against black people in China which led to a kind of racial profiling and collective punishment on people of African descent.
There’s no gainsaying the fact that China has waged very difficult war on coronavirus and has mostly rid the country of the virus but a new wave of infection is happening through travellers coming into the country and China is trying to address this. While most of the inbound travelers testing positive for Covid-19 in Guangzhou are Chinese nationals, it seems like the Africans have been picked up on due to a perceived lack of discipline among them which has led to the incidents of racism aforesaid.
The Chinese government needs to address this issue as it is not doing the image of China any good even though the incident was localized to Guangzhou. I believe defaulters should be dealt with on a one on one basis and not this resort to racial profiling and collective punishment of a whole race.
I stand against any form of racism and xenophobia by Africans against China and likewise, I won’t close my eyes to Chinese racism and xenophobia against Africans.
- Michael Dedon is a Nigerian lawyer.