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Anti-African discrimination on the rise in China

Anti-African discrimination on the rise in China

At least in the governmental level, promoting “people-to-people exchange” between China and Africa was mentioned all the time. However, most of the people-to-people interactions between Chinese and Africans are not through government initiatives of sending a group of African students to a Chinese university in Zhejiang Province, or dispatching a medical team from a Chinese hospital to the hinterland of Congo.

Daily “people-to-people interaction” can be violent and nasty.

On 19th June 2012, the day this blog entrance is being written, “more than 100 Africans protested…outside a police station in China’s southern Guangdong province after an African man died in police custody”, reported by Reuters.  This has caused severe traffic jam in the area, and through the photos we can find armed police trying to maintain the order around a large group of Africans in the middle of the road.

This is not the first time Africans rioted on the street of Guangzhou, the city which hosts more than 200,000 Africans (see my blog post series in July 2011). In 2009, a similar incident happened – over 100 Africans protested against the Guangzhou authority after a Nigerian man was killed in an immigration raid led by the city’s policeIn one of my blog entrances, I narrated my experience of witnessing many African demonstrators standing against the angry city policemen.

How should we look at this new social problem in China, a country so homogenous in its racial profile now confronting with international migration issues?

In these years increasing number of scholars have involved in researching the African community in China. The most famous work is the published book by the University of Hong Kong researcher Dr. Adams Bodomo after thorough study of the community. Dr. Bodomo showed deep concern of Chinese police’s incompetence and brutality while dealing with African migrants in Guangzhou. He urged African diplomats to raise this issue to the governmental level talks with China, such as Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

However, if the real issue is racial discrimination, can government initiatives really solve the problem?

For years, I was terrified to find how Chinese people describe Africans. If you randomly go to a Chinese online discussion forum (or called BBS, a social media platform), you probably will be horrified by hearing how people comment on the Africans in their mind. I translate some into English here:

“A large number of blacks caused many social problems in China, such as fights, rapes, drug trafficking, seducing Chinese girls, spreading AIDS, and child of mixed parentage after marring Chinese women. This is hideous!”

“China belongs to the Chinese. The ancestors leave us land for yellow skin and black hair Chinese people to settle down. We can’t let it become a colony of alien’s breeds.”

“I want to throw up when I see these blacks…I can’t believe they are going after our Chinese women! They are going to spread AIDS in our city now!”

Please refer here and here for links to the online bulletin boards where these messages were posted (in Chinese).

Generally speaking, today, no matter whether a Chinese actually encountered an African in his or her life, the impression has already been pre-occupied with negative images over the Africans from the media, movies and some shallow knowledge of the colonial history. They often think Africans are ugly, poor, crazy, uneducated and violent. Most of the Chinese would never want to deal with them. I believe in the mind of some policemen in Guangzhou who have probably been tired of dealing with the illegal activities incurred by the African community, ”African people must go back and give a cleaner place back to us.”

The situation is laying a clear picture in front of us. On one side, government officials talk about people-to-people exchange and praise the historical friendship between China and Africa. On the other side – the grassroots side – Chinese people continuously impose their discrimination against Africans through words and actions; and Africans under such suppression have no choice but to riot and strive for their basic human rights in China. Or thousands of miles away, some African government may even decide to raid the Chinese trader communities in order to retaliate.

What a messy picture of misunderstandings! When will the vicious circle stop?

UPDATE: Jun 20th, 2012
Additional thoughts: I hope to let the Africans in China know this. When protesting in the public, it is really not wise to block the road to cause traffic congestion. Chinese people are not used to public protest, and they wouldn’t tolerate a group of foreigners (especially Africans who they dislike) to block the traffic in China for any justified reason. Given the discrimination against Africans amongst the general public, what Africans were doing on the 19th June will only increase Chinese’ antipathy against the African communities in Guangzhou.  I have already seen Chinese commenting on this incident online, and the comments are generally negative, nationalist and racist. We shouldn’t let this trend to continue.

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About Lu Jinghao

I often found that many China-Africa related news articles are a lack of supporting examples, except for empty numbers. Being a Chinese, I sometimes got insider’s point of views through interacting with my Chinese friends in the continent. I decided to open this blog, and update these stories. I am pleased to know an increasing number of people started to visit the site. Although my point of view might not be accurate, it at least reflects what Chinese people in the continent are thinking. Please forgive my grammatical mistakes if there are any.

3 comments

  1. This is unacceptable… China needs to embrace her diversity. This is what the rest of the world is trying to achieve.

  2. While I believe diversity is what the World wants to achieve, however I dont believe the majority of black africans deserve this diversity in China for a number of reasons. 1: getting what they can for beneficial reasons which may be to marry a local chinese woman to get their stay while most of them have a wife back in their homeland. 2: overstaying their visa is like disrespecting the laws there. 3: spread of aids. 4: scamming women using love techniques then doing a runner with the money. Chinese women are very naive and curious about foreigners like these, so reason 3 and 4 are unfortunate cases. There are a few more reasons but we all get the idea, thats why discrimination will always remain so we are wary of them. The stats and figures are out there, so many stories of black men and chinese women cases. Go read them and find out for yourselves!

    • While Quay he de, it’s interesting to read your comment because as an American we are having a very similar discussion right now in the United States about immigrants, including those from China. You know in cities like Los Angeles and New York where the illegal Chinese population is large and growing there are a lot of Americans who say EXACTLY the same things about Chinese migrants that you are saying about Africans in China. For example, there is a very big problem of Chinese men coming to the United States, marrying a US citizen in order for them to get their own residency so they can then bring their children from China to the US to study at our universities. We also have a very serious problem with pregnant Chinese women coming to the US to have their children born there so they can get citizenship for their new children. Now with lots of wealthy Chinese coming over to the US, many people complain that they are being priced out of their homes. So the problems are many across all social classes.

      My point is that with all immigration there is always good with the bad. I think you are right, there are many African migrants in China who do bad things but it’s just as important to remember that there are also a lot of African migrants who are in your country doing amazing things to help make Chinese more open to the rest of the world, building businesses, creating new families and helping China to become a truly modern, open 21st century country.

      I also think it is very important for Chinese people in particular to remember that with an estimated 100 million ethnic Chinese abroad, not to mention 1-2 million that emigrated to Africa no less that a little humility is very important. It would not be possible for so many Chinese to move abroad to flee economic insecurity, political repression or to join family members overseas if the United States and African countries treated immigrants as strictly as China does. I think China has an obligation to do more for immigrants given how many people have left (and continue to leave) China to settle down in other countries where they are tolerated much more than in the PRC.

      What do you think?