Due to widespread fears of new COVID-19 cases, mixed with a deep-seated prejudice that many Chinese people have toward black people, a sizable number of African migrants in Guangzhou have experienced an unsettling level of public scrutiny and have become the target of aggressive measures taken by the local government.
While there’s no evidence showing that the African community in Guangzhou bears any additional responsibility for the transmission of the coronavirus in the city, local officials have launched a screening campaign targeting the African diaspora, which has included ruthless evictions and mandatory COVID-19 testing.
Now the results have come in. According to state news agency Xinhua, since April 4, a total of 4,553 citizens of African countries in Guangzhou have been tested for COVID-19 under local government orders. As of April 13, 111 of them have tested positive for the virus, of which 19 were imported cases.
When speaking to Xinhua, Táng Xiǎopíng 唐小平, head of Guangzhou’s public health bureau, noted that the the primary goal of the large-scale testing was to “ensure safety and health of African nationals in Guangzhou.” Chén Yǒngqiú 陈永球, a senior law enforcement officer, stressed that the quarantine and testing regulations that the local African community was subjected to were no different from those faced by Chinese citizens and foreigners of other nationalities. “We provided the same hotels and staff members for Africans in mandatory quarantine. There’s no racial discrimination in our approach,” Chen said.
Despite Chen’s explanation, the news has prompted a new deluge of hateful comments against people of African origin in Guangzhou on Chinese social media, with many internet users calling for a more comprehensive coronavirus screening targeting the African community, and even for a mass deportation crackdown. “Since we don’t know what other diseases they might be infected with, I suggest that we deport all of them,” a Weibo user said (in Chinese). Some also raised questions about the expense of the testing and treatment, saying that African patients should pay for everything related to their infections. “I hope the government is not using our tax payers’ money to cure those parasites!” a person wrote (in Chinese) on Weibo.