Racism and xenophobia are on the rise in China, where thousands of Africans living in Guangzhou have been left homeless after being evicted due to fears that they could spread the coronavirus.
African ambassadors in China have written to the country’s foreign minister to address discrimination against Africans as China moves to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus, according to Quartz.
The COVID-19 outbreak, which originated in China’s Wuhan City, has become a global pandemic — with more than 1.8 million global infections and 116,000 deaths reported. At least 3,341 of those deaths were in China.
Chinese state-owned media claim that the coronavirus outbreak is under control but imported cases from people traveling to China threaten a resurgence, SABC News reports.
It is this fear that appears to be fueling the xenophobic actions taken by some people in Guangzhou.
Jonathan Cheng, China bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal said that the fallout from the anti-foreigner sentiment targeting Africans threatens China-Africa diplomacy.
“Allegations of discrimination in Guangzhou have stirred anger across Africa, setting off a diplomatic row that could undermine goodwill Beijing has built on the continent via large infusions of investment and propaganda,” tweeted Cheng.
In recent years, African countries have become key diplomatic and trade partners to Beijing. China’s trade with Africa was worth $208 billion in 2019, CNN reports.
Africans have been evicted from their homes by landlords and turned away from hotels, despite many claiming to have no recent travel history or known contact with those infected with the coronavirus, AlJazeera reports.
There are estimated to be around 300,000 Africans, some being students, living in Guangzhou. In 2017, around 320,000 Africans entered or left China through Guangzhou, an industrial area where many foreigners buy goods to take back to their countries, according to Xinhua.
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CNN interviews with dozens of Africans living in the southern Chinese city confirm stories of prejudice.
A U.S. Embassy security alert published on April 11 said that Chinese “police ordered bars and restaurants not to serve clients who appear to be of African origin,” according to AP News.