Chinese Racism Against Black Africans Living in China

Where is the outcry from Black Lives Matter activists and other progressives?

Democrats and their friends in the Trump-hating media have shown no hesitancy in playing the race card against President Trump and others who have used the phrase “China virus” to describe the coronavirus that originated in China. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also accused President Trump of “discrimination” and “cruelty” against “individuals from predominantly African nations.” She did so after the Trump administration announced new restrictions on the ability of immigrants to travel to the United States from six additional countries (mostly African countries such as Nigeria) on the same date as restrictions on travel from China were announced. But when it comes to the rampant acts of racism and discrimination committed against black Africans residing in China in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, Pelosi and her cohorts have been silent. 

Black Lives Matter tweeted on April 8th that “The #coronavirus has exposed what we have always known, the deep depths of racial inequity in this country.” On April 7th, Black Lives tweeted, "#COVID19 may not discriminate, but we know America does.” Yet recent reports of persistent racism and discrimination against black Africans in China didn’t seem to matter to Black Lives Matter. Such reports would distract from their identity politics narrative of institutional racism in the United States.

Africans in China, including “many businessmen, students, and others from places like Nigeria, Kenya, and Zimbabwe,” Breitbart reported, claim that they are “being subject to arbitrary coronavirus testing and still shunned when they test negative.” Discrimination against black Africans living in Guangzhou, where there is a large community of black Africans, has been particularly fierce. Things got so bad that a McDonald's branch in Guangzhou later apologized for posting a notice that had gone viral saying, "We’ve been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant."

Collectively, African ambassadors in China wrote a letter to China’s foreign minister decrying "stigmatisation and discrimination" against African nationals in China and demanding “the cessation of forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans." The letter added that “the singling out of Africans for compulsory testing and quarantine, in our view, has no scientific or logical basis and amounts to racism towards Africans in China."

Various African nations have also lodged individual official complaints regarding the blatant racism that Africans have experienced in China. Nairobi News reported, for example, that Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has complained that Chinese authorities’ “measures have in some instances precipitated unfair responses against foreigners, particularly those of African origin.” Ghana’s Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey said in a statement: “I have been briefed on the inhumane treatment being meted out to Ghanaians and other African nationals in the People’s Republic of China with regards to COVID-19 outbreak. I regret and highly condemn this act of ill treatment and racial discrimination.” Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama expressed concern about reports of discrimination against Nigerians living in China.  

The U.S. State Department has also criticized the treatment of Africans residing in China. “Videos and stories from #Guangzhou are appalling,” tweeted Tibor Nagy, assistant secretary for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs. “Abuse and xenophobia has (sic) no place in our fight against this global pandemic. Chinese authorities must do more to stop these attacks against Africans living and working in China.”

Chinese authorities at first pushed back against charges of racism, claiming the accusations constitute another example of U.S. propaganda. “We do not have discrimination in China against African brothers,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily news briefing recently. “It is irresponsible and immoral for the U.S. to sow discord,” Zhao added. “Its attempt to drive a wedge between China and Africa will never succeed.”

There is nothing new here. Once again, the Chinese government has been lying and covering up its misconduct, compounding its deliberate disinformation campaign regarding the origins of the coronavirus and its spread.

Black Livity China is an online platform that speaks truth to power. It has documented the racism that black African residents in China have experienced. Recently, it tweeted a video entitled “Xenophobic Attack Against Black People in China.” On April 15th Black Livity tweeted, “Distrust at an all time high in the community. Few will believe the statistics now being shared about African Covid-19 cases in #Guangzhou, considering recent attempts to lie about the racist nature of events in the city.”

African government officials have since muted their criticisms after Chinese authorities tried to allay their concerns with some explanations and half-measures. However, “vast portions of African civil society are not persuaded and feel quite bitter over the indignities fellow Africans endure in China,” according to the China Africa Project. They have reason to be concerned. Chinese racism against Africans living in China preceded the coronavirus and will likely continue long after the virus runs its course.

For example, Pan Qinglin, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, declared three years ago that “Africans bring many security risks. Africans have a high rate of AIDS and the Ebola virus that can be transmitted via body fluids… If their population [keeps growing], China will change from a nation-state to an immigration country, from a yellow country to a black-and-yellow country.” He received a lot of support on social media.

A 2011 article by Yinghong Cheng in The China Quarterly, entitled “From Campus Racism to Cyber Racism: Discourse of Race and Chinese Nationalism,” described the extent to which racism against black Africans living in China is deeply embedded in Chinese society, particularly amongst the well-educated. Following the pattern of racism on campus against African students, “Chinese cyber discussions on Africans have shown a blatant racialism against Africans.”

The Left in the United States views China as the victim of foreign racism, evidenced most recently in the denunciations of President Trump for attaching the China label to the coronavirus that originated in China. At the same time, leftists have disgracefully turned a blind eye to the racism against black Africans living in China itself – yet another example of the Orwellian dystopian universe in which they live.

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