US fast food chain McDonald’s has apologised after a notice telling Africans they were banned from entering a branch in southern China prompted outrage online.
It has so far removed the sign and temporarily closed the Guangzhou restaurant “immediately upon learning of an unauthorized communication to our guests”, McDonald’s said in an emailed statement.
A video shared on social media showed a McDonald worker in uniform holding a notice that read: “We’ve been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant.”
A spokesman for McDonald’s told AFP that the notice was “not representative of our inclusive values”.
In recent days, tensions have flared between police and Africans in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou after local officials announced a cluster of COVID-19 cases in a neighbourhood with a large migrant population.
Several Africans have told AFP they had been forcibly evicted by police from their accommodation, refused service at shops and restaurants, and were subject to mass testing and arbitrary quarantines.
The row has also prompted a diplomatic flurry, with ambassadors and envoys from more than 20 African countries meeting assistant foreign minister Chen Xiaodong on Monday.
Chen promised at the meeting to “lift the health management (measures) on African people, except the confirmed patients”, according to a foreign ministry statement.
He said the Guangdong government is “constantly taking measures to improve” and act “according to the principle of non-discrimination”.
The statement said Chen asked the envoys to “look at the big picture of China-Africa friendship.”
Guangzhou’s US consulate issued an alert on Saturday advising African-Americans to avoid travel to the city due to the targeted crackdown, and the US accused Chinese authorities of “xenophobia” toward Africans.
Beijing has also accused the US of using the row for political purposes to “drive a wedge” between China and Africa.
A total of 111 African nationals in Guangzhou have tested positive for COVID-19, including 19 imported cases, said the city’s executive vice mayor on Monday, according to Xinhua.
The African community in Guangzhou has been dwindling in recent years. There were once thought to be hundreds of thousands from the continent conducting business in the city, but today the number has fallen to just thousands.
Many feel that their communities have been the target of discriminatory measures. Restrictions to visas have made many I have spoken to feel less welcome. Some feel that the coronavirus is being used as an excuse to target businessmen who overstay their visas. (Source: BBC)