On Thursday, a video clip of Chinese police evicting Africans from their homes and hotels hit the internet and stirred outrage. A good number of Africans, mostly Nigerians, were seen being escorted by the police to the streets where they were forced to spend the night. Their passports were seized and they were prohibited from using the supermarkets.
The action is believed to have been instigated by the Chinese authorities’ aim to curtail further spread of coronavirus in the country. But Africans were singled out in the discriminating exercise that has caught the attention of the African Union and governments whose citizens are involved.
In another video that surfaced online following the first one, a Nigerian consulate officer, Mr. Anozie Maduabuchi Cyril, was seen confronting the Chinese authorities upon the report of what is going on in Guangzhou.
Mr. Cyril was visibly angry as he noted with emphasis the deliberate violation of the rights of Nigerians and other Africans in Guangzhou. The alibi by the Chinese government officials has been that the victims need to be quarantined, which fell short of logic as they had all already served the stipulated 14 days quarantine but were forcibly subjected to another 14 days, and this time, outside their homes and hotels.
The discrimination became so glaring because the eviction happened only to the black community, a point Cyril highlighted as discrimination.
“In Nigeria, work and every other thing had been shut down by the government. We didn’t say that only Nigerians should go to work and other places while Chinese nationals must be quarantined. Everybody has been asked to stay at home.
“If you want your policy to work, shut down Guangzhou and let everyone including the Chinese remain indoors for 14 days. If you do that, the issue of discrimination will not be there. But if you are picking Africans, that is the highest humiliation anyone can get,” Mr. Cyril said.
The Chinese officials’ attempt to deny the incident was crushed by evidence of seized passports. Mr. Cyril who waved the retrieved passports to their faces added: “Why are they seizing Nigerian passports, you are seizing Nigeria as a whole and it is not acceptable.
“You didn’t communicate with us that you are going to all the Nigerian houses and ask people to come out for quarantine. If you want to do your policy, shut down the entire city, don’t discriminate.”
In Nigeria, we have a lot of Chinese, I don’t think you have ever received any information that the government of Nigeria goes to their various houses and picks them for quarantine, so why are Africans and indeed Nigerians being targeted in China”? Mr. Cyril asked.
The events of the last few days in Guangzhou have also captured the attention of Nigerian government. In Abuja, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has on Friday, summoned the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian to provide answers to the why questions surrounding the incident.
Gbajabiamila who registered his displeasure over the incident with Pingjian said that such incidents would not be tolerated and must be addressed forthwith.
“If the diplomatic relationships between our two countries are for the mutual benefits of our citizens, then there must be respect for our citizens, and we should not compromise it.
“As a government, we will not allow Chinese or other nationals to be maltreated just as we will not allow Nigerians to be maltreated in other countries. The way you treat your citizens, we expect that’s how you’ll treat others; we will not tolerate our citizens breaking your laws, but the crime of one citizen cannot be used to stigmatize the whole country.
“It appears that is what happened in this case; you cannot use one brush to smear the whole wall. Whatever the reason, it cannot be used and taken out on the entire community,” the Speaker said.
The Chinese Ambassador, however, promised to get to the root of matter. He said although he has been briefed about the development, he needs to establish it with the Chinese government as such incidents don’t represent what the government back home stands for.
“We take our relationship with Nigeria very seriously, we receive a full report from back home, I cannot act, but I can assure you it is not a policy issue. We treat everybody equally, but during the implementation of COVID-19 measures in China, it is possible for incidents; all I will do is to take it back home, today I will,” Ambassador Pingjian said.
In response to the development, Kenyans have reportedly adopted a jungle justice approach to register their displeasure by chasing Chinese workers in Kenya out of their fields of work.
The Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat has invited the Chinese Ambassador to the AU, Mr. Liu Yuxi, to express extreme concern of the Union over the maltreatment of Africans in China. The African group in Beijing is also engaging the Chinese government, as the push for immediate remedial measures to address the issue continues.
In the wake of coronavirus in the United States, President Donald Trump has been criticized for calling the disease “Chinese virus,” a remark that didn’t go well with many, mainly the Chinese people, as it denotes racial discrimination.
Therefore, the rest of the world was least expecting China to get caught in any act of discrimination as it unfolded in Guangzhou.