Equal treatment of foreigners reiterated

By Leng Shumei and Chen Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/12 13:30:01 Last Updated: 2020/4/12 22:30:01

Reported ill treatment of Africans a Western trap to stir enmity: experts


Graphic: GT

Authorities in Guangzhou reiterated that equal policies are in place for both foreigners and Chinese nationals in screening for COVID-19 patients coming along with imported cases, amid viral reports in Western media alleging Africans are being discriminated against and badly treated in the city, which was used by some Western media to provoke the problems  between China and African countries.

Since March, Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province and an important international hub in the Chinese mainland after Beijing and Shanghai, has been enhancing the management of all international arrivals, whether Chinese or foreigners, in the face of a growing number of imported cases of novel coronavirus infections.

As of Sunday, 119 imported cases and 13 domestic cases caused by these imported cases have been discovered in Guangzhou, of whom 25 were foreigners. All the imported cases and related domestic cases were discovered during the city's screening procedure, local officials said at the press conference.  

Guangzhou has been screening international arrivals from key areas heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 4,600 people from these areas and their close contacts have been tracked and given nucleic acid tests since April 5, Wen said. 

Another 1,557 people arriving on flights between March 7 and 27, including both Chinese and foreigners, have also received tests, according Wen.  

All the imported cases and related domestic cases were discovered during the city's virus screening procedure.  

International arrivals enjoy equal treatment and should abide by the same disease prevention and control measures as residents, Wen said, noting that the city has been enhancing health services for foreigners during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Wen's remarks came amid viral international media reports over the weekend alleging that Africans in Guangzhou were being evicted from their homes by landlords and turned away by hotels. 

Chinese analysts said that twisted reports were stoking a long-existing controversy over Africans in Guangzhou to a new high and urged the local governments to be more transparent and to respond to controversies in a timelier manner to avoid the issue being exploited by the West to damage China-Africa relations. 

If Africans violated the Chinese law, "we should punish them," said He Wenping, a research fellow with the institute of West-Asian and African studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

"And if the police really conduct uncivilized law enforcement, we should correct it. But individual cases should not be generalized," He told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Some African people living in Guangzhou may not agree with the strict quarantine measures imposed by local authorities, but Kingswill Oba, a Nigerian businessman living in Guangzhou, said the measures were important as they related to personal health and the safety of all foreigners and Guangzhou citizens. 

"For me, what I care about is my health and my life. Health is wealth," Oba told the Global Times on Sunday. "We must obey the rules of quarantine, which I like because I'm concerned about my health."

China had successfully contained the virus spread, Oba noted.

At the Guangdong provincial press conference on Sunday, Yang Rihua, deputy director-general of Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department, noted that all foreigners in the province should accept measures including checks, tests and quarantines. 

Violators would be punished, warned, detained or expelled according to Chinese law, Yang noted.

A Nigerian trader examines underwear at a wholesale market in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Photo: CFP

Western trap

Officials from African countries including Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya have reportedly summoned Chinese ambassadors and complained of the alleged ill treatment.  

Ghana's ministry of foreign affairs and regional integration had expressed extreme disappointment and displeasure over recent happenings in China with regards to the African community, local media reported.

Nigeria's Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila tweeted Saturday that he had shown a video clip of alleged ill treatment by Chinese authorities of Nigerian citizens in China to Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria Zhou Pingjian and required the Chinese side to investigate and respond.

On Sunday, the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria issued a statement saying that Zhou has clarified at site during a meeting with Gbajabiamila that the authorities in the video did not do any misconduct and reiterated that China "treat all foreign nationals equally in China. We reject differential treatment and have zero tolerance for discrimination.". 

The statement called for mutual understanding, support and cooperation during disease prevention and noted that foreigners should strictly follow local rules.

Li Haidong, a professor at the institute of international relations of China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday that the epidemic was not as serious in the African continent as in China.

For this reason Li opined that many arriving Africans could not immediately accept China's strict measures. 

China would not change its consistent stance to support Africa in the pandemic, Li said. Politicians and diplomats of some African countries should not fall into the trap set by the West and blame China wrongly, Li noted. 

"This would hurt the real friends and favor the troublemakers," Li said.

A US State Department spokesman was quoted by media as saying Saturday that the "abuse and mistreatment of Africans living and working in China is a sad reminder of how hollow the PRC-Africa partnership really is."

Chinese analysts slammed the remarks saying they were aimed at smearing China's image among African people.

The remarks would not succeed as China-Africa relations are built on deepened cooperation and mutual trust, the experts agreed.

Imported reports

Guangzhou is the only trading port in China that has been open for 2,000 years, resulting in a broad and complex composition of foreign residents. 

According to Wen, more than 86,000 foreigners were living in Guangzhou as of December 25, 2019, of whom 13,652 were from Africa. 

Due to the epidemic, about 50,000 foreign residents have not been able to return to Guangzhou as of April 10, so only 30,768 are currently staying in the city, including 4,600 South Koreans, 4,553 Africans and 2,987 Japanese, Wen said.   

Guangzhou authorities started a house-to-house screening in the city's African communities after reports of some Africans violating local disease control rules, a Nigerian business person living in Guangzhou who required anonymity said in a post shared with the Global Times. 

For example, a Nigerian with a confirmed infection upon arrival attacked local medical workers and refused treatment on April 1. 

In addition, five other Nigerians were found infected during screening and four had visited a local restaurant many times.

"For those of us here, we were isolated, tested and issued our [health] cards before we were able to move around," said the anonymous Nigerian. 

"But some people coming in want to move around without testing, and it's not good for the people who are already in there."

The businessman said he had stayed at home a month and two weeks and no one has evicted him from his house and no one has refused to let him come in. 

"Follow the rules, andthings will be easy for you," he said.  

Continuous reports of infections among Africans and domestic transmission related to these cases put local residents on high alert and lead to some landlords asking their African tenants to leave, according to Li Dong, a photographer and veteran observer of Guangzhou's African community. 

The authorities also lacked experience in dealing with such an emergency and there could be delays and confrontations in dealing with the group, Li noted. 

These people have all been sent to designated quarantine hotels as of now, according to Li.

Among them, some were currently living in China illegally and might be expelled after finishing quarantine according to Chinese law, Li asserted.   


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