"No blacks" at McDonald’s, ejection from apartment: racism in Guangzhou, southern China, causes outrage.
Ugandans Margaret Ntale and Cecilia Oyet talk on the phone with their daughters in Wuhan Photo: ap
Anyone who goes to McDonald’s in the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou these days is pointed to an English-language warning notice by staff in some branches: "We have been informed that no black people will be allowed in the restaurant in the future," it reads.
On Twitter, African-born residents of the metropolis of 11 million people post about horrendous experiences: A man with a newborn is locked up in his apartment by the neighborhood committee, a woman is thrown out of her apartment, a group of young men are forced to take a coronavirus test without justification.
As research by CNN shows, Guangzhou’s dark-skinned population is being systematically maltreated and victimized by xenophobia.
The U.S. consulate in Guangzhou has issued a warning that African Americans should temporarily avoid the city. It said incidents had accumulated of people "of African descent by appearance" being kicked out of their hotel at night, having their passports confiscated and being sent into self-quarantine.
China’s government responded to the allegations, as it so often does, with complete dismissal: "We don’t have discrimination in China against African brothers," Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, said at the all-morning press conference. Foreigners of any origin are treated equally in China, he said. The U.S. consulate’s warning message was a doomed attempt to "drive a wedge between China and Africa," he said.
"Let’s bring our brothers and sisters home".
But there is an outcry on social media in numerous African countries. "So, should we Africans behave the same way?" asks Ugandan journalist and commentator John Njoroge on Facebook, and immediately answers himself, "No, we shouldn’t" – but Africa’s governments and political elite should "rethink their relations with the Chinese government" as well as send planes out together "to bring our brothers and sisters home."
Earlier this year, as the coronavirus spread through China, many African governments debated whether to airlift their students home from China. South Africa and Ethiopia decided in favor, Uganda against.
This was not only a question of cost, but also a security issue: Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni declared that Ugandans would be "safer" in China than at home, where they could endanger the Ugandan population if they were virus carriers.
Instead, some countries such as Cameroon and Uganda sent money to China at that time. In mid-February, Uganda transferred about $60,000 through the Ugandan Embassy in Beijing to the hundred or so Ugandan students in Wuhan. But a week later, Ugandan Margaret Ntale Namusisi’s, whose three daughters were squatting in an apartment without food in Wuhan at the time, reported they had received no money.
Now it turns out: African students are not safe in China. And for the first time, African governments are now reacting with harsh words. In a joint letter from many African ambassadors in Beijing to Wang Yi, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, they complain of "stigmatization and discrimination." They say the wrong impression is being created that the virus is being spread by Africans.
Africa’s elites told to rethink relations with China
"The group of African ambassadors in Beijing immediately calls for an end to testing, quarantine and other inhumane treatment," the letter says.
Uganda’s Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa on Saturday summoned the Chinese ambassador to Uganda, Zheng Zhuquiang, to complain about the "harassment and ill-treatment," according to the Foreign Ministry in Kampala. The ambassador had assured the minister that his government would look into it. Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa reacted similarly. Even the African Union protested officially.
For weeks, the Chinese government has been emphasizing the apparent victory in the fight against the virus, while the threat now stems from "imported cases" from abroad. However, the state media always conceal the fact that up to 90 percent of the infected persons who entered the country were Chinese citizens. In the meantime, foreigners are only allowed into the country in a few exceptional cases, including diplomats.