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China says it has a “zero tolerance policy” for racism, but the attack on Africans occurred decades ago

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China says it has a "zero tolerance policy" for racism, but the attack on Africans occurred decades ago

Another user in Kenya, Peter Kariuk, wrote: “We need a united Africa that will not be a slave to #BlackChina.”

Last month, many Africans subject to forced quarantine and independent quarantine virus testing of 14 arbitrary days, regardless of their recent travel history, and many are homeless after being evicted by landlords and rejected by hotels under the guise of various virus prevention measures.
The incident caused a broken in China-Africa relations, with foreign ministries from several African countries – and even the African Union – demanding answers from China.

But China’s official response stopped recognizing that discrimination occurred – or apologized for it.

“All foreigners are treated the same. We reject different treatment, and we have no tolerance for discrimination,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said. The Chinese embassy in South Africa said deeply statement: “There is no such thing as discrimination against Africans in Guangdong province.”

The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, went further, publishing an article entitled: “Who is behind the false news about ‘discrimination’ against Africans in China?”

Traditionally, Beijing has described racism as a Western problem. But for many Africans, whose country in recent years has become very economically intertwined with Beijing, the Guangzhou episode reveals the gap between the official diplomatic warmth offered by Beijing to African countries and the suspicions that many Chinese have for Africans themselves.

And that has been a problem for decades.

There is no racism in China

The West only began to really pay attention – and criticize – China’s relations with Africa in 2006, after a summit that saw almost every African head of state descend on Beijing.

But China’s relations with Africa stretch back to the 1950s, when Beijing made friends with new independent nations to position themselves as leaders in the developing world and to fight US and Soviet Union forces during the Cold War era.

Beijing discusses the history of its suppression carried out jointly by white imperialists, condemning South African apartheid from the start and providing assistance to Africa even when China was a poor country. In 1968, Beijing spent the equivalent of $ 3 billion in money today to build the Tanzam Railway in Zambia and Tanzania, and in the 1960s began offering full African scholarships to Chinese universities.
Chinese propaganda posters promoting medical assistance offered by Beijing to Africa during the 20th century.

The presence of African students in China is very unusual.

Most foreigners left China after the Communist Party came to power in 1949. When African students began arriving in significant numbers in the late 1970s, China had only just begun to open up to the world. Most people still live in rural areas without access to international media, and haven’t seen black people outside propaganda posters – let alone meet one.

From the beginning, clashes were reported in all countries.

In 1979, Africans in Shanghai were attacked for playing too loud music, which led to 19 foreigners being hospitalized. After another commotion in 1986, this time in Beijing, 200 African students lined up in the capital, shouting that the Chinese claim about “friendship is a mask for racism,” according to the New York Times report.

“The Chinese deceived us,” Solomon A. Tardey from Liberia told the newspaper. “We know the truth now. We will tell our government what the truth is. ”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Education of China at that time the word“This is a consistent long-term policy and the Chinese government opposes racism. “That response echoed almost word for word in a statement from the Chinese government responding to the fall in Guangzhou last month.

Race riots in China

In 1988, a total of 1,500 of the 6,000 foreign students in China were African, and had spread to campuses throughout the country – a tactic designed to weaken racial tensions, according to a 1994 report by Michael J Sullivan in China Quarterly magazine.

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But the effort was unsuccessful, and on Christmas Eve that year anti-black tensions erupted in the eastern city of Nanjing, resulting in hordes of Chinese protesters driving the Africans out of the city.

After that, the Chinese government claimed that African students had arrived at a campus dancing with weapons, including knives, and beating Chinese guards, teachers and students after being asked to register their Chinese guests, according to Jiangsu provincial yearbook.

Africans think that when they try to bring a Chinese friend to a dance, they are ridiculed as “black devils” and a fight ensues, according to Sullivan.

Whichever account is correct, what happens after has been well documented.

That night, around 1,000 local students surrounded the African hostel, after rumors swept across the campus that they were holding a Chinese woman against her will. Chinese students throw bricks through their windows.

After police dispersed the scene on Christmas Day, around 70 African students decided to leave the campus and walk to the city train station, hoping to travel to Beijing where they had an embassy. Other dark-skinned foreigners, including Americans, also fled, fearing for their safety.

On campus, rumors spread that Chinese hostages have died.

Coverage in the New York Times about the Nanjing incident in 1988.
At 7 pm on Christmas Day a group of around 8,000 students from universities throughout the city began marching to the train station, carrying banners shouting “severely punish the killer“and” drive out black people. ”

When the mob approached, the police took out all the black students to the nearest guesthouse, where they are detained until several Ghanaian and Gambian students are arrested for fighting at a campus dance.

Other Africans were told to return to campus – and were warned not to go out at night.

Kaiser Kuo, an American-born Chinese guitarist in the Tang Dynasty rock band, and founder of the Chinese Sup media group, was studying at Beijing Language and Culture University that Christmas, living on the dorm floor with students from Zambia and Liberia. He remembers hearing about racial riots.

“They are angry with the Africans that it seems that the honor of a Chinese woman has been tarnished,” he said. “This is one of those things where rumors continue to rise. By the time it reached my ears, the version was that a Chinese girl had been raped to death, when of course there was no evidence that such a thing had ever happened.

“As far as I know, it’s more like an African man asking a Chinese girl.”

Anti-African protest

The event in Nanjing was not an outlier. In the city of Hangzhou, students claimed Africa was the carrier of the AID virus in 1988, although foreign students had to test negative for HIV before entering the country, Barry Sautman wrote in the China Quarterly.

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Then, in January 1989, around 2,000 Beijing students boycotted classes in protest against Africans dating Chinese women – a matter of repetitive lightning rods. In Wuhan years, posters appeared around campuses calling Africans “black devils,” and urged them to go home.

Kuo recalls: “You know, around me, there is a real concern among African students for the type of xenophobia that is increasing on campuses.”

That created a problem for Beijing, writes Sautman, because it weakened China’s confidence as a developing world leader – and hostility did not go unnoticed.

The New York Times reports about protests every night in Nanjing after Chinese students clash with Africans.

Just as African media across the continent were angered by the Guangzhou incident in April 2020, newspapers in Africa reacted angrily in the 1980s. A Kenyan publication said they were not “coincidental,” Sautman wrote. A Liberian newspaper talks about “yellow discrimination.” A Nigerian radio station said Chinese students “couldn’t stand seeing Africans” mixed in with Chinese girls.

The Chinese Ambassador to the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the African Union, was called to answer what happened in China, and the OAU secretary general called it “undercover apartheid.”

Many African students left China as a result. Around the same time, China announced a reduction in interest-free loans for Africa, marking the cooling of official relations, although the ties never broke.

Now a social science professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Sautman said that while anti-African protests during the late 1980s were about race, they were also a way for Chinese students to express broader anti-government sentiment.

“The people who participated in the anti-African demonstration at the time were students, and the students were in some ways jealous of African students,” he said.

Africans usually have own room, while the Chinese often stay eight to the dormitory.

“They think they live better than they do because they get subsidies from their home government and the Chinese government, and they also think that Africans act more freely than Chinese students are allowed to act,” Sautman said.

Is Chinese racism the same as Western racism?

As Chinese interaction with Africans increased in the 21st century, the awkward gap between Beijing’s public friendship expanded and the personal suspicions of its citizens again triggered moments of racial tensions.

In 2009, an African-Chinese contestant on the Shanghai TV talent show received a series of internet abuse because of the color of his skin. In an opinion in the government-run China Daily, columnist Raymond Zhou argues that this discrimination stems from the fact that “for thousands of years, those who work outdoors (have darker skin and) have lower social status” – more precisely from to racism.
In 2009, an African-Chinese contestant on the Shanghai TV talent show received a series of internet abuse because of the color of his skin.

“Most of the intolerance of China that boils is based on color. It is not an exaggeration to say that many of my citizens have pale racial flattery which is lower than ours,” he said.

“(It seems) direct racism, but on closer inspection it is not entirely based on race. Many of us even look down on Chinese colleagues who have darker skin, especially women. Beauty products that claim to whiten skin always get a premium. And children children continue to be praised for having white skin. “

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But more recent events have undermined the idea that discrimination against black people in China is not racism.

In 2016, a Chinese detergent maker sparked international outrage over an advertisement that showed a black man washed white to seduce an Asian woman. A company spokesman said Western media was “too sensitive. “

The following year, a museum in Wuhan city apologized for presenting an exhibition that juxtaposed images of Africans and African wild animals that made the same facial expressions. Then, in 2018, the annual gala for national CCTV broadcasters drew anger after a Chinese woman appeared on a black face.

In Africa, where an estimated more than 1 million Chinese now live, there are already repeated reports Chinese restaurant owners set up companies that ban Africans.
In 2009, an African-Chinese contestant on the Shanghai TV talent show received a series of internet abuse because of the color of his skin.

“There is a classic discussion about whether Chinese racism is racist in the way imagined in the West or Europe, or whether it is a different discrimination policy,” said Winslow Robertson, founder of Cowries and Rice, Chinese-African management consultant.

“My feeling is racism. Is it identical to what we see in the US coming out of chattel slavery? No. But if you define racism based on something you can’t change about yourself, then that’s racism.”

Discrimination against Africans in China during the coronavirus pandemic, he added, has revealed that fact.

Earlier this month, in an effort to prevent these criticisms, officials in Guangdong announced new steps to combat racial discrimination, including setting up a hotline for foreign nationals. The notice said that shops, hospitals, restaurants and residential communities – places where Africans were targeted – had to offer “equivalent service offers.”
Africans sleep on the streets in Guangzhou, after being unable to find shelter.

But Paul Mensah, a Ghanaian merchant who has lived in the southern city of Shenzhen for five years, said the treatment of Africans in China during the Covid-19 pandemic had shaped perceptions about racial attitudes in the country.

“I think racism is inherent in America but I never thought people in China would do this,” Mensah said. “Before when they (Chinese) would see black people, they would touch your skin and touch your hair, and I think that was out of curiosity because many of them did not travel. But this is racism and there is no penalty for that.”

Sautman, who wrote a paper about the Nanjing riots, said that if China was serious about eliminating mistreatment of foreigners, it should punish those who racially harassed and discriminated.

Article 4 of the Chinese constitution stipulates that “all ethnic groups in the People’s Republic of China are the same … discrimination and oppression of any ethnic group is prohibited. It is forbidden to damage ethnic unity and create ethnic divisions.”

But there have been no reports that people in Guangzhou are held accountable for their actions towards Africans, and the constitution has little influence in protecting China’s own ethnic minority. Estimated that 2 million China’s minority Uyghurs are being held in education camps in the northwest of the country.

Without imposed legal deterrence, Sautman said it would be difficult to change the way the Chinese treated Africans. “There is no place in the world where racial discrimination has diminished without taking action,” he said.

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