Off late, there has been a lot of buzz on social media regarding treatment of Africans in China, which comes at the backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Guangzhou, a city overflowing with African expats has emerged as the hotspot of targeted harassment of anyone with a high melanin count in their skins, i.e., anyone who is black.
In Guangzhou’s Yuexiu district which is also known as “Little Africa”, Africans and people suspected to be in contact with ‘African contacts’ are compelled to take tests followed by a mandatory quarantine at their own expense. It is reported that black people are forcefully evicted from hotels and flats and denied service in restaurants in Guangzhou. Police persecution of all blacks is a common sighting in the city, particularly in these times of the pandemic.
The specific targeting of African nationals for their skin colour did not go down well with various Governments in Africa, who lambasted China right, left and centre. Kenya, Guinea and Nigeria, particularly, stood up to blatant xenophobia being practiced by the Chinese Communist Party.
Brilliant. Consul General of Nigeria in China confronts Chinese officials over harassment of Nigerian nationals in China by the Chinese police amidst #COVID19 pandemic. The Chinese Official laughs it off since it’s a usual practice in China. Bizarre. pic.twitter.com/J9Ky470KNP
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) April 12, 2020
The international outrage, however, has achieved close to nothing when it comes to mitigating the hardships faced by the Africans in China. It may have, however, only made things worse for them. Despite China saying that they would be ensuring that no acts of racism are committed on their soil, The Guardian has now reported that the Communist state has miserably failed in doing so. Africans continue to be evicted from their rented houses and rooms. Further, nobody has stopped the Chinese people of the city from not allowing entry to people with a skin colour to hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. Africans cannot even order food themselves, as deliveries are being refused to them. This, despite the fact that foreign nationals from US and Russia are readily allowed entry almost everywhere.
The fundamental premise of the Africans to be treated in such an inhuman manner is that all “foreign nationals” are barred from entering hotels, restaurants and bars. Yet, many victims have alleged, that those of American descent, having a white skin colour are treated as honourable guests in China. This goes on to speak volumes about the inherent hatred which Chinese society has for the blacks.
Is blatant and explicit racism, a newfound phenomenon in China? Absolutely not. While almost everyone is aware of receding amounts of racism in Western nations like the US, UK and others, almost nobody bats an eye towards the xenophobia prevalent in China, particularly against those who do not have a white skin-tone. In fact, China is by far the most racist country in the world. Racism and hatred for the ‘black’ is deeply ingrained in the Chinese psyche, and while the CCP has its share of fault to account for, the inherent racism prevalent in the entirety of Chinese society is what the world community often tends to overlook.
As a matter of fact, Coronavirus is merely acting as a catalyst to stir the already boiling pot of hatred in China. By which I mean that the racism in China predates the phenomenon of a global pandemic that the world is facing. Being part of a homogeneous and largely singular society, the people of China are almost stunned upon seeing anybody not matching their assumptions of what a human should look like. Their fascination for the ‘whites’ and utter disdain for others is what the world as a whole needs to speak a lot more about, instead of constantly guilt-tripping the Western nations for whatever remaining racism they have left among them.
Such is the xenophobia of Chinese society, that the city of Guangzhou is also nicknamed as “Chocolate City” and “Little Africa”. Coronavirus has only exacerbated the hell of a life which Africans there are made to live. Al Jazeera conversed with a few Africans, which included students, who went on to explain how they were constantly mistreated in China due to their skin-colour and country of origin, more so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A medical student in Wuhan stated that while the Chinese were being allowed to undertake all normal activities in the city after the COVID-19 ground zero lifted its restrictions on April 8th, “foreign nationals” continued to be denied entry into restaurants, banks and supermarkets. The most that they could do, according to the student, were take a walk in the neighbourhood. It must be remembered that in China, the words “foreign nationals” are largely being used in these times to covertly refer to all blacks.
In another conversation, Africans recalled what it was like being a ‘black’ in China. Many said that due to their skin colour and country-of-origin, they were subjected to inappropriate, and what some would even call, inhuman behaviour by the Chinese. Inappropriate touches, speculative gazes, blatant and explicit xenophobia, the Africans are braving it all in China. People in China usually maintain distance from anyone who is ‘black’, and also cover their mouths when in close proximity to them.
‘SerpentZA’ is a well-known YouTube channel, run by Winston Sterzel, a South-African who spent more than 14 years in China. He was the first YouTuber from China. In a video titled, “Is China the Most Racist Country in the World?”, Winston completely exposed the hollow mindset of Chinese society to blatantly practice racism, unapologetically so. The vlogger says that racism is aided and abetted by the CCP, and since nothing is done to stop it from the government’s side, the Chinese society has come to believe that it is perfectly fine to demean anyone based upon their skin colour. He also minces no words in saying that 99% of Chinese society is racist, if not all. Therefore, the argument of a “few black swans” in their society exhibiting racist tendencies really holds no water. Having lived in China himself, the man recalls how, being a white, he was almost treated in a godly manner. The blacks from South Africa, meanwhile, continue to be treated as lesser mortals.
Another YouTube channel, named ‘laowhy86′, in a video titled “Are Chinese People Racist?” shows two individuals, reacting to a highly controversial Chinese detergent advertisement and explaining how racism is prevalent in China, more so among the older generation of people, who, upon the mere sight of anyone ‘black’, quite explicitly act disgusted. They also point towards such people and act as though they have seen a ghost. Further, employment opportunities for ‘whites’ are far more than those with a darker skin colour, the two individuals say. In the same video, an excerpt from a video by SerpentZA is shown, where it is seen that Chinese girls prefer white foreigners over those with a skin colour.
Speaking of the detergent advertisement, the same created a furore internationally for the shameless racism it validated, and also showed how the Chinese were disgusted by the mere sight of anyone ‘black’. The advertisement showed a Chinese girl popping a detergent pill into a black man’s mouth, and then stuffing him into a washing machine. After the ‘washing’, what emerged from the machine was a white, Chinese man. Because of course, in China, white=clean, and black=dirty.
Many Chinese people flocked the already restricted social media of their country in 2016 to shamelessly defend the advertisement, even as they did not shy away from indulging in whataboutery of the highest level, saying that the same happened in other countries as well, and therefore they had a moral right to do the same.
The difference, however, is that modern democracies of the world (something which the Chinese wouldn’t know much about) do not, as a society or even at the governmental levels, condone the racism prevalent in their countries. Unlike China, racism in other countries is a crime, and a highly condemnable offence. In China, however, the society has normalized racism as a part and parcel of their day-to-day lives. The government aids and abets targeted harassment of Africans and blacks, while the large swathes of citizenry fail to condemn the same, and instead, condone brazen acts of racism and xenophobia.
On ADVChina, which is a collaborative YouTube channel of SerpentZA and laowhy68, the two talk about the difficulties one faces in China if they happen to be African, or black, in a video titled, “It’s Difficult Being AFRICAN in China”. It was revealed that police, and other authorities were in fact quite lenient in dealing with people of native English speaking countries like the US and UK. When it came to dealing with people from Africa, however, no such courtesies are usually extended, and the usual racism is of course practiced. Speaking about Guangzhou, the duo also indicates that the levels of police brutality on the African nationals is just unimaginable, with people jumping off their roofs and balconies only to escape police persecution.
“Black brothers often travel in droves; they are out at night out on the streets, nightclubs, and remote areas. They engage in drug trafficking, harassment of women, and fighting, which seriously disturbs law and order in Guangzhou… 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.” These are not the words of a common Chinese citizen, but those spoken by a senior politician and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Pan Qinglin. As is visible, xenophobia is furthered from the top quarters of the CCP, which is then readily accepted and practised by the common people.
The perception that Africans are dirty people who aim to ‘invade’ China is a fundamental misconception which many Chinese have in their minds. Further, the perception that they indulge in large-scale drug consumption and trafficking, leading to them being criminals of the worst kind is the fundamental reason why Africans are harassed in China. The fear that interracial marriages between Africans and Chinese will bring about a catastrophic demographic change also play a crucial role in furthering racism against the blacks.
While almost everyone outrages over flimsy acts of racism in the West, not many bat an eye to the gross levels of xenophobic hatred prevalent in China. Thanks to an authoritarian censorship, news of racism and other crimes against Africans do not even reach the world without being heavily adulterated and filtered by the Communist machinery of China. Acts which would invite criminal charges in democratic countries of the world, apart from the large amounts of public hounding on social media are given a free pass in China, because how dare we question the Communist government of China and an equivocally supportive Chinese citizenry?
China has always been a homogeneous society itself, and as a direct result of which the people have grown to be anti-diversity. Seeing someone different from themselves disgusts them. Along generations, this hatred for the ‘blacks’ and other coloured people has grown unabated, a direct result of which is today being witnessed in the streets of Guangzhou. Inherent racism of the Chinese people must be called out, as the world of the 21st Century cannot tolerate such crimes against certain sections of people only because their skin colour is not in sync with what the Chinese believe to be ‘humanly’. China might still be stuck in the era of Mao Zedong, but modern societies must step up and call the communist state out for its heavily ingrained societal racism.