African leaders ask for explanation from China of alleged racism against Africans

African leaders ask for explanation from China of alleged racism against Africans

This file photo taken on March 2, 2018 shows people walking in the "Little Africa" district in Guangzhou, the capital of southern China's Guangdong province. Africans in southern China's largest city say they have become targets of suspicion and subjected to forced evictions, arbitrary quarantines and mass coronavirus testing as the country steps up its fight against imported infections. (Photo by Fred DUFOUR / AFP)

South Africa, along with a number of other African countries, has expressed concern at the alleged ill treatment and discrimination of African nationals in China, which involves targeted forced testing and quarantining for Covid-19.

African ambassadors have also written a letter of protest to the Chinese government, Communist Party of China, the Human Rights Council in Geneva and to President Cyril Ramaphosa as chairperson of the African Union voicing their unhappiness with anti-African actions in China.

On Thursday some of the ambassadors held talks with China’s ministry of foreign affairs and the Communist Party’s international affairs office to voice their concerns.

AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat summoned the Chinese ambassador in Addis Ababa to provide an explanation. The EFF has called on Ramaphosa to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all Africans across the globe and the unconditional repatriation of all Africans from China.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has lambasted the allegations of discrimination, stigmatisation and other inhumane treatment against Africans in China.

“Reports of these alleged actions are inconsistent with the excellent relations that exist between China and Africa, dating back to China’s support during the decolonisation struggle in Africa, and now manifesting in an extensive Africa-China partnership. This collaborative, mutual relationship also finds concrete expression in the support that China is providing to Africa in the ongoing fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dirco in a statement on Sunday.

The department welcomed Mahamat’s decision to summon the Chinese envoy and China’s assurance that it was not China’s policy to discriminate against African nationals.

“South Africa urges the relevant Chinese authorities to investigate these reports and take appropriate remedial measures. We encourage the African Group of Ambassadors in Beijing to continue to engage the Chinese authorities with a view to ensuring that Africans are not subjected to any ill-treatment, and that, instead, they are treated equally, with respect and with dignity like all other nationals in China,” Dirco said.

In their letter to Beijing, the African Ambassadors in Beijing strongly protested the ongoing forceful testing, quarantine and maltreatment of Africans in China, particularly in Guangdong Province.

They said it was discrimination and stigmatisation to subject Africans to 14 days of quarantine even if they had not travelled outside their jurisdictions, had not come into contact with infected persons and showed no symptoms of Covid-19.

“The Group would like to underscore the fact that the Africans in China have at all times adhered to the laws of China, particularly within the period of this outbreak. We have not and cannot recall Chinese authorities reporting a case where our nationals have violated the anti-pandemic laws and regulations of the China government. 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,” the Ambassadors said.

Among the cases highlighted was an ejection of, among others, Togolese, Nigerians, and Beninois from their hotels in the middle of the night only because they were Africans.

A group of African students studying at Sun-Yat Sen University in Guangzhou was made to undergo a nucleic acid test, in spite of the fact they had no travel history within the stated period.

The ambassadors also disapproved of the selective testing of African students while their non-African colleagues had been left out. Some African men married to Chinese women were forced to take the Covid-19 test and their Chinese families were left out.

In some cases, the men were taken from their families and quarantined in hotels alone.

Many Africans were forcefully evicted from their various apartments and thrown into the streets – even those with infant children – and some had their passports seized in violation of international practices and conventions.

The African envoys were concerned about what they called the “persistent harassment and humiliation” of African nationals by being subjected to “unwarranted medical examinations” after testing negative for Covid-19, and forced into quarantine, irrespective of their negative status.

They were also threatened with revocation of visas, arrest, detention and deportation for no cogent reason.

“From the foregoing, the impression is being created as though the spread of the virus is caused by Africans contrary to the fact that, in China and indeed globally, Africans are the least exposed to Covid-19; or is there any other reason for which Africans are being targeted other than Covid-19 that we are unaware of?” the letter asked.

EFF national spokesperson Delisile Ngwenya described the actions as “inhumane”.

“The racist motivated evictions of African nationals in China has forced some to live under bridges, shops and restaurants; owners turn Africans away from buying food from them. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the abuse and racist mistreatment of Africans living and working in China; particularly at a time when we should be supporting one another to recover from the coronavirus pandemic,” Ngwenya said.

– ericn@citizen.co.za

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