African govts. protests against racism in Guangzhou amid COVID-19 pandemic


The African ambassadors to the People’s Republic of China have written a protest letter following reports of forced coronavirus testing and quarantines, evictions from apartments and hotels, and other acts they said constituted racism against black people in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Governments of several African nations have also summoned Chinese ambassadors to voice their protests over the matter.

In a letter dated April 10, 2020, which was sent to the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, the African Group of Ambassadors in Beijing demanded an immediate end to the discrimination and stigmatization of African residents.

“The African Group of Ambassadors observes with consternation the discrimination and stigmatization of Africans whereby they are made to forcefully, and in a very crude manner to undergo epidemic investigation and Nucleic Acid Test, 14 days quarantine even if they had not traveled outside their jurisdictions, not come into contact with infected persons, not had close contact or showing any symptoms of the COVID-19,” said the letter, dated April 10.

The envoys said that they had not been made aware of cases in which African nations had violated Chinese pandemic control laws, “Therefore, the singling out of Africans for compulsory testing and quarantine, in our view, has no scientific or logical basis and amounts to racism towards Africans in China,” they wrote.

They also demanded that Africans be treated the same as Chinese and other nationals in the fight against the novel coronavirus in the country.

“We have received disquieting reports of inhuman treatments meted out to Africans particularly in Guangdong Province,” said the letter, addressed to Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi.

Among examples of abuses the letter cited were Africans ejected from hotels in the middle of the night, African students singled out for coronavirus testing, Africans married to Chinese removed from their families and quarantined in hotels alone, the seizure of passports and threats of revocation of visas, arrest, detention and deportation of legal visitors “for no cogent reason,” they said.

The group of African envoys “immediately demands the cessation of forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans in Guangdong Province in particular and the whole of China,” they wrote.

In African capitals, the foreign ministers of Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria have all summoned Chinese ambassadors in recent days after multiple reports and video clips emerged of evictions targeting African immigrants in the city as the authorities implement coronavirus quarantine and testing programs.

Uganda’s foreign minister Sam Kutesa conveyed his government’s “serious concern … on the harassment and mistreatment of its nationals,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, while Nigerian foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama called via his Twitter account for “immediate Chinese government intervention” over the alleged maltreatment of Nigerians in Guangzhou.

Kenya’s Saturday Nation newspaper ran a front page story with the headline: “Kenyans in China: Rescue us From Hell,” reporting on “long nights in the cold, racial discrimination in shopping malls and retail outlets and attacks on public transport in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.”

The country’s foreign ministry has issued a “complaint note” to Beijing and asked the Chinese Embassy to follow up, the paper said.

Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey condemned what she called the “ill-treatment and racial discrimination” meted out to Ghanaians and other African nationals in China in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I regret and highly condemn this act of ill-treatment and racial discrimination,” Botchwey said, adding that she had summoned the Chinese ambassador over the matter.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, who chairs the African Union Commission, said the Commission had followed suit “to express our extreme concern at allegations of maltreatment of Africans in #Guangzhou.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian meanwhile said in a daily news briefing that “we do not have discrimination in China against African brothers.”

“It is irresponsible and immoral for the U.S. to sow discord,” he said. “Its attempt to drive a wedge between China and Africa will never succeed.” Zhao continued.

Without addressing the African letter or other diplomatic protests, Zhao said the provincial authorities in the southern province of Guangdong, of which Guangzhou is the capital, “are working promptly to improve their working method.”

“The Chinese government has been attaching great importance to the life and health of foreign nationals in China,” Zhao said in a statement reported by Agence France-Presse on Sunday. (Source: RFA)