Racial tensions a new challenge for emerging China

By Yu Jincui Source:Global Times Published: 2012-6-21 0:20:15

The death of a Nigerian man in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province sparked a rally in front of a local police station by hundreds of foreigners Tuesday afternoon. As Ademola Oladele, minister for public information at Nigeria's embassy in China confirmed with the media, the man, Celestine Elebechi, fell into a coma and died after he and a Chinese electric bicycle driver were taken to the police station after an altercation over fare on Monday.

Hundreds of Africans in Guangzhou blocked traffic and surrounded the police station to protest Elebechi's death and demanded an investigation. According to witnesses, the demonstrators threw rocks at police and private vehicles. The police station had to send dozens of police to resume order.

Protests by foreign residents are rare in China but seem to be on the rise. In 2009, over 100 demonstrators surrounded a police station in Guangzhou also to protest against the death of a Nigerian man, who jumped from a second-floor window to escape a passport check by police.

The city of Guangzhou has seen an increasing number of foreigners in recent years. Official statistics show that there are currently over 20,000 Africans in Guangzhou, however, some scholars believe this number is a conservative estimate, considering the number of unidentified immigrants. They pointed out that Africans in Guangzhou could total 200,000 and increase by 30 percent to 40 percent every year.

The boom in the number of foreigners symbolizes Guangzhou's internationalization, but it also challenges the city's management.

As China's fast development is attracting more foreigners into the country, disputes between different races, common in immigrant countries, are likely to occur in China. This phenomenon used to be a faraway idea for Chinese police, but now it may become increasingly frequent. Conflicts between different racial groups can generate other social problems as well. In the worst case scenario, anti-immigrant feelings can trigger large scale social tensions, as witnessed in many European countries now. 

In May, various cities in China began cracking down on foreigners illegally entering, residing and working in China, drawing some resentment among the expat community. It's a worldwide problem that needs to be tackled. The campaign is a way to regulate management of foreigners in China and reduce pressures on relevant management authorities.


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Growing hostility toward expats fueled by ugly incidents


China's economic prosperity over recent decades has coincided with an influx of foreigners drawn to the country by its culture and bountiful business opportunities, although relations between the local and expat populations have not always been smooth.

Posted in: Observer

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