African nationals and African-Americans in China are experiencing racism and abuse amplified by concerns about the novel coronavirus. Chinese officials are denying the cases are systemic while imploring the public to not “sensationalize” what may be one-off incidents.
China was the original epicenter of the pandemic, and Asians across the globe have experienced race-based abuse over the outbreak. As the Black diaspora is battling the virus, African nationals based in China are the latest scapegoats, according to media reports. Black people of African descent are reportedly being kicked out of hotels, evicted from their homes and having their passports confiscated.
The anti-Blackness appears to stem from worry about a new surge of infections in Guangzhou, a city in southern China.
“There is an escalating scrutiny of foreign nationals, but they are targeting the Africans and the African American community. Since last Thursday we saw 114 new cases reported in Guangzhou of coronavirus infections and 16 of those were Africans,” said journalist Sarah Clarke reported for Al Jazeera.
She added, “We’ve seen a number of reports from social media from members of the African community in Guangzhou making complaints of mistreatment, arrests, eviction and being denied access to restaurants and hotels, and some students are even claiming to be living on the streets and being denied food.”
The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Embassy in China issued an alert Saturday saying, in part, that Guangzhou police “ordered bars and restaurants not to serve clients who appear to be of African origin” and officials there are ordering mandatory testing and self-quarantine for “anyone with ‘African contacts.’”
Proof of the anti-Black abuses is floating around social media. Photos show rows of Black people sleeping on a street. Video footage showed Black people wandering through the streets of China with their belongings, since they have no place to go.
Another video showed a person holding a sign that explicitly banned Black people from a business.
“We’ve been informed that from now on, Black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant,” the sign read. “For the sake of your health, consciously notify the local police for medical isolation.”
An additional disturbing video showed two Black men being arrested. One of the men was handcuffed and being escorted by three police officers, while another was lying facedown on the sidewalk. It is unclear when that footage was captured.
African ambassadors based in China expressed their concerns about the treatment of expats in a letter to the Chinese foreign minister.
“The Group of African Ambassadors in Beijing immediately demands the cessation of forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans,” it read.
Several African nations have taken action to stop the maltreatment of their citizens.
Foreign affairs officials from Ghana and Kenya have formally expressed their grievances to Chinese officials. In video circulating on Twitter, the Chinese ambassador in Nigeria received a stern warning.
Chinese officials denied there was any racism against Black people happening in their country.
“It is harmful to sensationalize isolated incidents,” the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe said in a statement. “China treats all individuals in the country, Chinese and foreign alike, as equals.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told The Associated Press the nation is working to prevent “overseas imports” of COVID-19 but insisted all foreigners are treated equally. However, Zhao acknowledged “there might be some misunderstandings in the implementation of measures.”