China is urged once again to stop discriminatory policies and practices towards the African community inside its borders as it fights the COVID-19 pandemic.
Human Rights Watch said in Tuesday that the Chinese government should instead protect them from discrimination in employment, housing, and other matters.
“Chinese authorities claim ‘zero tolerance’ for discrimination, but what they are doing to Africans in Guangzhou is a textbook case of just that,” said Yaqiu Wang, China researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Beijing should immediately investigate and hold accountable all officials and others responsible for discriminatory treatment,” added Ms. Wang.
In early April 2020, Chinese authorities in the southern city of Guangzhou, Guangdong province, which has China’s largest African community, began a campaign to forcibly test Africans for the coronavirus, and ordered them to self-isolate or to quarantine in designated hotels.
Landlords then evicted African residents, forcing many to sleep on the street, and hotels, shops, and restaurants refused African customers. Other foreign groups have generally not been subjected to similar treatment.
Elsewhere in China, some Africans reported police and local officials had harassed them, and hospitals and restaurants turned them away.
The Chinese government denied discriminating against Africans in Guangzhou, saying that it “reject[s]differential treatment” and has “zero tolerance for discrimination.” Chinese state media also ran stories seeking to refute criticism that Chinese authorities had mistreated African nationals and blamed “Western media” for “provok[ing]the problems between China and African countries.”
Official figures show that about 14,000 African nationals live in Guangzhou, but researchers estimate thousands more are there without documentation.
Because of virus-related mistreatment, many Africans in China have urged their governments to call on the Chinese government to cease all forms of discrimination against Africans, and some want their governments to evacuate them from China. The Kenyan government announced it would fly out Kenyans stranded in China on May 01.
Reports of discrimination against Africans in China sparked outrage among African communities around the world, Human Rights Watch said. Several African governments, including Nigeria, Uganda, and Ghana, summoned Chinese ambassadors in their countries to protest.
Ambassadors from several African countries in China wrote to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, calling for the Chinese government to cease “forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatment meted out to Africans.”
More than 300 human rights groups and nearly 1,800 activists in Africa sent an open letter to the African Union calling for “immediate remedial action” over the “xenophobic, racist and inhumane treatment of Africans in China.”
In the past two decades, China has become Africa’s most important economic partner. China’s investment in Africa through the Belt and Road Initiative, the country’s trillion-dollar investment in infrastructure stretching across some 70 countries, has boosted Africa’s economy, but also lent the Chinese government considerable influence on the continent.
African governments have rarely criticized Chinese authorities for mistreatment of Africans in China, or for human rights violations against people across China.
Africans in China have long experienced racial discrimination. Police frequently target Africans, often linked on Chinese social media with violent crimes and overstaying their visas, for immigration enforcement.
Some job advertisements specifically exclude “heiren,” or blacks, or set a lower salary for African applicants. Some Africans report being paid less than their white colleagues for the same job. Many also said they have experienced of being turned away by taxis, restaurants, or shops.
“African governments together should unequivocally call on the Chinese government to cease all discrimination against Africans in China, and carry out prompt and transparent investigations to hold to account all those responsible for discriminatory practices,” said Carine Kaneza Nantulya, Africa advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
“African governments should also press China to enforce measures to prevent discrimination in the future,” she said. (Source: HRW)