The media has been replete with reports of Chinese people evicting Africans over claims that they are the ones importing and spreading coronavirus in the country. This has ignited a conversation around the perverse racism against Africans that dominates Chinese society. Anger has been roused, and there are calls for Africans to take some bold, decisive steps in dealing with the cruel treatment being inflicted on fellow Africans in China.
The inhumane treatment that other Africans have been subjected to in China has elicited a plethora of responses. The violent treatment that Africans in China are suffering from raises another question – Is China Africa’s all-weather friend as they love to claim? Are Africans comfortable in China? Why are Chinese people still entertained in Africa with first-class treatment?
Some have suggested that Chinese people should be made to leave the continent too because of how they view Africans in their land. A Kenyan legislator, Moses Kuria, suggested that Chinese people should be kicked out of Kenya with immediate effect.
“It is only fair that all Chinese nationals leave the country with immediate effect. How do you blame Africans for a virus you manufactured in a Wuhan laboratory? Go back home,” he said.
Another legislator, Charles Njagua wrote, “We offer the utmost respect yet what they pay us back with is disrespect and dehumanizing our people. We deserve better.”
Chinese authorities are giving flimsy assurances about the safety and welfare of Africans, emphasizing the “excellent diplomatic relations” that China shares with African countries. The Chinese Foreign Ministry, when responding to the Nigerian government said, “China and African countries are united more than ever, demonstrating brotherhood in times of adversity. We treat all foreign nationals equally in China. We reject differential treatment, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination.”
These statements have done little to inspire confidence that Africans in China are safe amid the discrimination they are facing over the issue of importing coronavirus into the country.
Sierra Leone’s embassy in Beijing “stated in very strong terms their concern and condemnation of the disturbing and humiliating experiences [there] citizens have been subjected to.” Ghana also summoned the Chinese ambassador as Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey condemned the “inhumane” treatment.
The discrimination has created a misleading notion that Africans are responsible for importing much of the virus into China and this is what African envoys in China are up against.
The Group of African Ambassadors in China wrote to the Chinese authorities, “The Group of African Ambassadors in Beijing immediately demands the cessation of forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans.” This was addressed to China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi.
It is imperative now for African countries to stand together and fight the anti-black sentiments that are flourishing in China in a distressing time of COVID-19. Relations between African countries and China should be revised so that African people are not victimized in China. It is a tough exercise to weed out racist sentiments against blacks who are often perceived by Chinese society as criminals, dangerous, unstable, and disorderly. At the same time, it is dangerous not to fight these sentiments for it is the African who will continue to suffer in China.
Racism in China has always been treated as a small, incipient issue but the recent reports of mistreatment against Africa have shown that this racism is rife in China.
As one Twitter user by the handle Joe Black said, “Chinese racism is just like South African xenophobia - always just there, sometimes open, sometimes below the surface, but ready to JUMP at the slightest excuse.”