Times of graved emergencies, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, are often accompanied by chaos, fear, racism, xenophobia and much misinformation. One or any combination of these negatives could induce undue harm to people as well as to contribute to straining relations between friends.
This past weekend, multiple media outlets reported stark grievances by some Africans, in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, in south China. They alleged discriminatory abuse by local police in the execution of Guangzhou's version of enforcing China's COVID-19 ordinances. Reports of the abuses also made it onto the African continent especially in the countries of Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe and elsewhere. Chinese ambassadors in Africa were asked to explain the reported abuses. And the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe took to social media with a statement rejecting discrimination as the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission invited the Chinese Ambassador to discuss the allegations of mistreatment of Africans in China.
There is a large African population in the trading hub of Guangzhou. Likewise, more than one-million Chinese people live throughout Africa. It was reported that Africans were being targeted for mandatory quarantine; mandatory 14-day quarantine even for those who had not left China in months; mandatory quarantine even though they were not in contact with any known COVID-19 patient; mandatory quarantine after completing 14-day isolation; and mandatory quarantine even though some had a health certificate attesting to being virus-free.
China mandates that all inbound arrivals quarantine for 14-days in designated areas in an effort to preventing any re-spread of COVID-19. As reported by Xinhua News, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, speaking in Beijing on Sunday, refuted United States (US) reports of the alleged abuses of Africans in Guangdong Province. The US State Department issued a travel advisory last Friday to African Americans not to travel to Guangdong because of the reported discrimination. But the Chinese spokesman accused the US of provoking confrontation, "which is not only immoral, but also irresponsible."
He added: "… All foreigners are treated equally , and we reject differential treatment." The foreign ministry spokesman said provincial authorities in Guangdong would attach "great importance" to the concerns of some African countries.
My family and I have visited many provinces in China. Our travels have been void of any discrimination. My third Son went back to China last Spring with his classmates visiting even more provinces, including Guangdong, they traveled incident free. Across China today, thousands of African students and people enjoy great comradery with their Chinese hosts.
Based upon reports and responses to events in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China, I deem it as plausible that during this fearful COVID-19 pandemic, one or more Africans have been subjected to, and have been victimized by undue public health policing. This past weekend, kind hearted Chinese volunteers and people on social media have sought to rectify the events in Guangzhou and to ameliorate conditions for the involved Africans.
Whether or not the intent of Guangdong authorities has been the explicit preservation of the public health, it remains respectful to the African people that a Guangzhou leader meets with the Africans to reiterate the basic local health policies in the continuing fight against COVID-19, as well as to publicly condemn any and all abuses suffered by the Africans.
The Mayors of New York City and of Washington, District of Columbia, where a large number of Chinese people live here in the US, including my wife, have both gone to their respective Chinatowns to dispel xenophobic and racist rumors amid this COVID-19 pandemic. Guangzhou should follow suit.
COVID-19 is ugly, it is deadly, it is fearful, yet all humanity is in this fight together and discrimination has no place in this fight since the pesky pathogen knowns no geographical, racial or economic boundaries.