Beijing Faces Diplomatic Crisis Due to The Mistreatment of Africans in China Causing Outrage

Beijing is facing a diplomatic crisis in Africa after reports of alleged coronavirus-related discrimination on Africans in China sparked widespread anger across the continent.

African students and expatriates in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou were last week subject to forced COVID-19 testing and arbitrary 14-day self-quarantine for no reason, regardless of their recent travel history, amid heightened fears of imported infections.

Large numbers of African nationals were left homeless by the Chinese authorities, after being evicted by landlords and also rejected by hotels in the city.

Having reportedly contained the virus within China, concerns have grown in recent weeks over a so-called second wave, brought into the country by overseas travelers.

In Africa, however, governments, media outlets and citizens reacted angrily to the apparent rise in anti-foreigner sentiment, as videos of Africans being harassed by police, sleeping on the streets or being locked into their homes under quarantine circulated online.

On Saturday, the front page of Kenya's biggest newspaper, "Kenyans in China: Rescue us from hell," as a member of the country's parliament called for Chinese nationals to leave Kenya immediately. TV stations in Uganda, South Africa and Nigeria also ran stories on the alleged mistreatment.

The fallout threatens to undermine China's diplomatic efforts in Africa. In recent years, African nations have become key diplomatic and trade partners to Beijing, with China's trade with Africa worth $208 billion in 2019, according to official figures from China's General Administration of Customs.

In a statement released Sunday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denied China had been singling out foreigners.
"We are still facing great risks of imported cases and domestic resurgence. Particularly, as the pandemic spreads all over the world, imported cases are causing mounting pressure," said Zhao.

"All foreigners are treated equally. We reject differential treatment, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination," he added.

A breakdown in relations
African countries are often characterized as being the weaker partner in bilateral relations with Beijing, with US officials repeatedly warning nations to be wary of so-called Chinese debt trap diplomacy, in which countries are forced to hand over key assets to service loans they can't make repayments on impairing their sovereignty.
But in recent days, African governments have been quick to demand answers from Beijing on the treatment of their citizens.

On Saturday, Nigerian lawmaker Oloye Akin Alabi posted a video on Twitter of the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, being grilled by a Nigerian politician over the mistreatment of Africans in Guangzhou.

During the exchange, Zhou is made to watch videos of Africans allegedly being mistreated in China. Oloye accompanied the video with the message that his government would "not tolerate maltreatment of Nigerians in China."

The governments of Uganda and Ghana also reportedly summoned their respective Chinese ambassadors over what the Ghanaians called "the inhumane treatment being meted out." Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry of South Africa, which is currently chairing the African Union, said it was "deeply concerned" by the reports.

On Saturday, in perhaps the most serious sign of continent-wide discontent, Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, tweeted that he had invited the Chinese ambassador to the AU to personally discuss the allegations of mistreatment.

The Chinese reaction
On Sunday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian responded to the crisis, promising that provincial authorities would attach "great importance" to the concerns of some African countries and work to improve quarantine measures, including providing special accommodation for foreigners required to undergo medical observation.
Source: "CNN"


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