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China under fire after mistreatment of African students in Guangzhou comes to light

African students and foreign nationals are reportedly being evicted from their homes and mistreated over fears they could spread coronavirus in China it has been reported.

African ambassadors in China have written to the country’s foreign minister over what they call discrimination against Africans as the country seeks to prevent a resurgence of Covid-19.

In a letter sent to China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, the ambassadors highlighted a number of reported incidents, including that Africans were being removed from hotels in the middle of the night and that passports were being seized. Many of them have also been threatened with visa revocation, arrest or deportation. The letter was also sent to the chair of the African Union, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and all African foreign ministers.

Several African countries have separately also demanded that China address their concerns that Africans, in particular in the southern city of Guangzhou, are being mistreated and harassed.

Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Ghana’s foreign minister of affairs said she had summoned the Chinese ambassador to express her disappointment and demand action.

The Nigerian and Kenyan foreign ministries have also “officially expressed concern”, adding the government is working with Chinese authorities to address the matter.

In recent days Africans in Guangzhou have reported being evicted from their apartments by their landlords, being tested for coronavirus several times without being given results, and being shunned and discriminated against in public. Such complaints have been made in local media and on social media.

China has recently managed to control the spread of the virus in Wuhan, where it began. However, is now concerned about imported cases and is stepping up scrutiny of foreigners coming into the country and tightening border controls. It has denied any discrimination.

The ambassadors’ letter said such “stigmatisation and discrimination” created the false impression that the virus was being spread by Africans.

It added: “The Group of African ambassadors in Beijing immediately demands the cessation of forceful testing, quarantine and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans.”

Defending its actions in a statement, the Chinese foreign office said: “During our fight against the coronavirus, the Chinese government has been attaching great importance to the life and health of foreign nationals in China. All foreigners are treated equally. We reject differential treatment, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination.”

It added: “Since the outbreak, the authorities in Guangdong attach high importance to the treatment of foreign patients, including African nationals.

Specific plans and proper arrangements are made to protect their life and health to the best of our ability, thanks to which we were able to save the lives of some African patients in severe or critical conditions. ”

Foreign affairs official Liu Baochun told a news conference on Sunday that Guangzhou is enforcing anti-virus measures on anyone who enters the city from across the national border, regardless of nationality, race or gender.

Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe on Saturday dismissed the accusation that Africans were being deliberately targeted.

“It is harmful to sensationalise isolated incidents,” it said in a tweet.

“China treats all individuals in the country, Chinese and foreign alike, as equals.”

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