Coronavirus Racism: Chinese City Bans Black People from Hotels, Apartments, Restaurants

In this photo taken on March 1, 2018, people walk in the "Little Africa" district in Guangzhou, the capital of southern China's Guangdong province. - The commercial hub has long been a magnet for fortune-seeking Africans, but traders and students say they face unfavourable visa rules and increasingly heavy policing. …
FRED DUFOUR/AFP via Getty

African residents of Guangzhou, southern China, reportedly found themselves sleeping on the street this week as renters arbitrarily evicted them, hotels banned them, and restaurants refused to serve them food.

The Africans – many businessmen, students, and others from places like Nigeria, Kenya, and Zimbabwe – say they are also being subject to arbitrary coronavirus testing and still shunned when they test negative. Many have spent years in China without leaving, unlike their Chinese neighbors, making the Communist Party’s explanation that travelers from abroad require more isolation and testing to prevent “imported” cases of Chinese coronavirus not applicable.

The Chinese coronavirus, currently behind a pandemic sweeping through most of the world, has had a markedly more muted effect in sub-Saharan Africa than other places, though some speculate this to be a product of many countries in the region having insufficient access to testing. In contrast, China is the origin country of the virus and its government actively silenced medical professionals sharing hygiene tips for months, enabling the spread of the virus to such a degree that one study found the Communist Party responsible for as many as 95 percent of the world’s coronavirus cases.

The vast majority of Chinese coronavirus cases in Guangzhou are Chinese nationals.

Despite this, many Chinese in Guangzhou are blaming Africans from the Chinese virus. Multiple outlets, citing locals in Guangzhou, reported that the government has begun arbitrary Chinese coronavirus testing of black people and ordered restaurants and other service businesses not to serve black people. Many who were tested say they are not giving any results, so they have no idea if they are coronavirus carriers. Others say they are told they tested negative, but are still forced into what amounts to house arrest – and note that the Chinese of Guangzhou are not facing similar treatment.

“I’ve been sleeping under the bridge for four days with no food to eat … I cannot buy food anywhere, no shops or restaurants will serve me,” Tony Mathias, an Ugandan student, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in an article published Saturday. “We’re like beggars on the street.”

“Everywhere the police see us, they will come and pursue us and tell us to go home. But where can we go?” an unnamed Nigerian businessman told the outlet.

“Even if we have a negative test result, police don’t let us stay (in our accommodation) and they don’t give a reason why,” another Nigerian identified as Denny told AFP.

AFP found evidence that all black people, not only those from Africa, faced similar treatment the city.

“There’s just this crazy fear that anybody who’s African might have been in contact with somebody who was sick,” a black Canadian told AFP.

Kenyan newspapers have also noted that Chinese social media – heavily controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and purged of any content Beijing disagrees with – have become home to “a torrent of abuse online, with many Chinese Internet users posting racist comments and calling for all Africans to be deported.”

Reuters reported on Saturday that a group of African ambassadors in China issued a letter to the Communist Party’s top diplomat Wang Yi demanding Beijing stop “stigmatization and discrimination” against Africans in Guangzhou.

“The Group of African Ambassadors in Beijing immediately demands the cessation of forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans,” Reuters quoted the letter as saying.

Several diplomats from nations like Ghana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe also reportedly either summoned ambassadors in their countries or otherwise alerted China to their displeasure at the abuse of their citizens.

Many African governments that represent the nations sending businessmen and others to cities like Guangzhou – a port city of nearly 15 million – joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Communist Party’s plan to dominate the world’s most important shipping and transport routes. As part of the plan, China offers predatory loans to African leaders in exchange for offering to build high-tech infrastructure in underdeveloped areas. The countries use the predatory loans to pay Chinese workers to build these projects, meaning China gets paid with the original money and then again with debt payments.

The result has been widespread abuse of African workers and racism against Africans in their own countries.
“With stakes worth billions of dollars in businesses ranging from agriculture to oil, gas, and construction, China’s Greek-gift economic assistance is increasing unemployment and worsening job creation in Nigeria,” Nigerian journalist Adedayo Adejobi warned in August. “It’s such a pathetic situation that Nigerians are slaves in their country to Chinese exploiters!”

Kenya has seen perhaps the most outrageous incidents of Chinese racism on the continent. In 2018, Kenyan workers on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), a BRI project, revealed that Chinese workers had established an “apartheid” system on work sites. Africans were not allowed on the same transport vehicles, in the same cafeterias, or otherwise near their Chinese counterparts. Despite being educated in engineering and construction, the Chinese allowed Kenyans only poorly paid manual labor jobs.

Outside of the SGR, Kenya was forced to deport one Chinese national for calling President Uhuru Kenyatta and Kenyans in general “monkey people” on video. Another Chinese national, illegally present in Kenya, was arrested for whipping a Kenyan worker on video. Last year, a mob of Chinese immigrants beat a Kenyan engineer after he found them to be flouting safety rules and refused to take a bribe.

While African nationals have been most dramatically affected, the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou warned black American citizens weekend that they may also face racism.

“Anyone with ‘African contacts’ faces mandatory virus tests followed by quarantine, regardless of recent travel history or previous isolation,” a statement from the consulate said.

Kenya’s Daily Nation, which exposed several racist incidents tied to Belt and Road, published an editorial Saturday accusing China of “the height of treachery” for police-mandated racism in Guangzhou.

“Kenya and the rest of Africa feel deeply betrayed by China,” the editorial read. “Africans are subjected to online abuse and bullying and negatively profiled, with the call they be deported. This is the height of treachery and defies social relations and human rights, let alone international protocols. It is racist and objectionable.”

The editorial also asserted the scientific consensus that the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, which Beijing has denied without evidence.

Zhao Lijian, a Foreign Ministry spokesman responsible for the false claim that the U.S. Army created the Wuhan virus in a laboratory, issued a statement Sunday in response to Guangzhou’s racist attacks on Africans, asserting that “China has achieved remarkable progress at this stage thanks to our most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures.”

Zhao insisted that “imported cases” of coronavirus are now China’s problem, not people-to-people spread of the virus within China. There is ample evidence that this may not be true.

“While overcoming difficulties at home, we also give love and care to all African citizens in China, especially African students,” Zhao’s statement read. “All foreigners are treated equally. We reject differential treatment, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination. Since the outbreak, the authorities in Guangdong [the province where Guangzhou is located] attach high importance to the treatment of foreign patients, including African nationals.”

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