Home / World / Beijing faces a diplomatic crisis after reports of ill-treatment of African people in China provoke outrage

Beijing faces a diplomatic crisis after reports of ill-treatment of African people in China provoke outrage

African students and expatriates in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou underwent forced coronavirus testing and arbitrary 14-day self-quarantine last week, regardless of recent travel history, in the face of growing fear of imported infections.

With the virus reportedly found in China, concerns have grown over the past few weeks about a so-called second wave brought in by overseas travelers.

In Africa, however, governments, media, and citizens were angered by the apparent surge in sentiment against foreigners when videos of Africans harassed by the police, sleeping on the streets, or quarantined in their homes were posted online.
On Saturday, the front page of Kenya̵
7;s largest newspaper called “Kenyans in China: Save Us From Hell” when a country member asked Chinese nationals to leave Kenya immediately. TV station in Uganda, South Africa and Nigeria also reported the alleged abuse.
Africans in Guangzhou are marginalized after many become homeless under increasing xenophobia when China fights a second wave of corona viruses

The fallout threatens to undermine China’s diplomatic efforts in Africa. In recent years, African nations have become Beijing’s major diplomatic and trading partners. According to official information from the Chinese customs authority, China’s trade with Africa was $ 208 billion in 2019.

In a statement released on Sunday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denied that China had selected foreigners.

“We are still at great risk from imported cases and domestic resurgence. Especially as the pandemic spreads around the world, imported cases are putting increasing pressure,” said Zhao.

“All foreigners are treated equally. We reject different treatment and do not tolerate discrimination,” he added.

A breakdown in relationships

African countries are often referred to as the weaker partner in bilateral relations with Beijing, with US officials repeatedly warning nations to beware of so-called Chinese debt trap diplomacy. In which countries they are forced to transfer important assets to service loans, they cannot make repayments if they affect their sovereignty.

In recent days, however, African governments have been quick to ask Beijing to respond to their citizens.

Nigerian legislator Oloye Akin Alabi published one on Saturday Video on Twitter by the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, who is being grilled by a Nigerian politician about the abuse of Africans in Guangzhou.

During the exchange, Zhou is said to watch videos of Africans allegedly being abused in China. Oloye accompanied the video with the message that his government “would not tolerate abuse of Nigerians in China.”

The governments of Uganda Ghana has also been reported to have called their respective Chinese ambassadors on what the Ghanaians described as “inhuman treatment”.
On Saturday, perhaps the most serious sign of continent-wide dissatisfaction, Moussa Faki MahamatThe chairman of the African Union Commission tweeted that he had invited the Chinese ambassador to the AU to personally discuss the allegations of abuse.

The Chinese reaction

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded to the crisis on Sunday, promising that the provincial authorities would “attach great importance” to the concerns of some African countries and work to improve quarantine measures, including providing special shelters to foreigners who have to undergo a medical observation.

However, based on city officials in Guangzhou, Zhao did not respond to certain allegations that the authorities would have imposed a mandatory check and 14-day quarantine policy on all Africans, even if they had not left China in recent months. had no contact with a known Covid 19 patient; had just completed 14 days of isolation; or had certificates to show that they were virus free.

Chinese state media had previously reported that five Nigerians tested in Guangzhou were positive for the virus.

Local police said on Sunday that all foreigners must strictly comply with Chinese law and those who refuse to identify themselves will be punished if the police ask them to do so. It is suspected that many Africans exceed their visas in Guangzhou, where officials said they have counted 4,553 Africans legally living in the city since last week.

On Sunday, the state-owned Global Times broke its silence over the ongoing diplomatic clashes, writing that “viral reports in the Western media, which claim that Africans are discriminated against and mistreated in the city,” were used by some Western media to help Provoking problems between China and African countries. ”
African migrants give up the Chinese dream

In recent years, legions of Chinese diplomats have joined Twitter, a social media platform banned in China.

In Africa, CNN had at least 25 Chinese diplomatic or consulate accounts. But those Twitter accounts, which have repeatedly campaigned for China’s relief efforts in Africa in the past few weeks, have been particularly quiet about the African diaspora in Guangzhou.

According to Zhao’s statement on Sunday, many began tweeting his comments.

Lina Benabdallah, assistant professor of politics at Wake Forest University, specializing in relations between China and Africa, said that the “delicate” nature of the issue is a “coordinated response” as Chinese diplomats prevent a backlash against the more than 1 million Chinese people currently live in Africa.

“De-escalation in that sense is probably a priority,” she said. “It’s a sensitive thing.”

People to people relationships

By the end of the weekend, most of the displaced Africans in Guangzhou, mainly traders and students who make up China’s largest African population, had found protection, CNN said in the city.

Armies of volunteers who had gathered on WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, had gathered to connect Africans to landlords and hotels that would still accept foreigners. Others had been rounded up by local authorities and quarantined in government-assigned hotels, such as Africans and volunteers who had spoken to CNN.

“They (the authorities) just don’t want them on the street,” said a volunteer who asked the government not to be named for fear of reprisals.

Shen Shiwei, a non-resident scholarship holder at Zhejiang Normal University’s Institute for African Studies, said that human relationships are a linchpin of China’s relationship with Africa and should be protected.

Shen called on Chinese officials to improve communication with the African diaspora in Guangzhou and suggested signs in English and the local language to explain policing decisions. “I think every story has two sides,” he said.

Hannah Ryder, a British-Kenyan citizen who previously worked for the United Nations in China and is now CEO of a Kenyan company in Beijing, said this type of incident could have a massive impact on how people in Africa see China. “If they are not treated properly, they can have far greater consequences than people sleeping on the streets. They can affect international relations, trade, and even diplomacy,” said Ryder.

“With China becoming the first country to recover from and recover from Covid-19, the world can learn a lot from China’s experience,” she said.

“I hope that China can take a leading role in combating xenophobia in addressing this issue and be a role model for the world to follow.”

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