HONG KONG-(MaraviPost)-The African community in Guangzhou is on edge after widespread accounts were shared on social media of people being left homeless this week, as China’s warnings against imported coronavirus cases stoke anti-foreigner sentiment.
In the southern Chinese city, 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 Covid-19 patients.
CNN interviewed more than two dozen Africans living in Guangzhou many of whom told of the same experiences: being left without a home, being subject to random testing for Covid-19, and being quarantined for 14 days in their homes, despite having no symptoms or contact with known patients.
Health authorities in Guangdong ?province and the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The move comes amid heightened media coverage of the so-called second wave of coronavirus cases, emanating from infections outside of China.
Earlier this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged authorities to carefully watch for imported cases from ?other countries, state news agency Xinhua reported.
But one aspect of the data has received relatively less public attention: on March 26, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Luo Zhaohui said 90% of China’s imported cases held Chinese passports.
On Thursday afternoon, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, China and African countries have always supported each other and have always fought against the virus jointly.
“I would like to emphasize that the Chinese government treats all foreigners in China equally, opposes any differentiated practices targeted at specific groups of people, and has zero tolerance for discriminatory words and actions.”
Cases spark a backlash
Guangzhou has long had the largest African community in China. Because many Africans in the city have short-term business visas, they travel into China several times a year, making it difficult to calculate the size of the African population the city.
But when coronavirus cases emerged in the African community this month it served to amplify existing tensions.
Homeless in Guangzhou
On March 21, Nigerian goods trader Chuk, who did not want to use his full name for fear of government reprisals, flew back to Guangzhou, his home since 2009. With China’s coronavirus cases seemingly under control, he wanted to resume his trading business, which had been stymied by the pandemic.The area around Guangzhou is a manufacturing heartland, where many Africans buy cheap goods to sell back home.Chuk returned seven days before China closed its borders to most foreign nationals, but upon arrival, he says he was told that he needed to enter government quarantine at a hotel for two weeks.As a trader, Chuk travels frequently, and is accustomed to staying in hotels during his time in China.But on Tuesday, Chuk says that when he was released, along with about 15 other Africans, with a clean bill of health, they effectively became homeless.Africans sleeping on the street in Guangzhou, after being unable to find shelter.”We went to the hotel with the certificate, but we were rejected,” he said.
The group went to the police station to report that hotels were refusing to let Africans stay, but “they refused to talk to us.”
The Guangzhou Public Security Bureau, which oversees the police, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment about events described by anyone CNN interviewed.
Chuk says he had no choice but to sleep rough for two nights, before finding a friend’s couch to crash on.
“Rain fell that day and the next and we were all drenched and our belongings soaked,” he said.
His story was echoed by others who spoke to CNN.Earlier this week, images began circulating online of rows of Africans sleeping on the streets of Guangzhou, beside their luggage, having either been evicted from their apartments or been turned away from hotels.
Other videos showed police harassing Africans on the street.