SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng
When news emerged in early April that African residents in the city of Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, were facing a wave of discrimination and even evictions because of unfounded suspicion that they were bringing COVID-19 to China, China’s reaction was denial. “All foreigners are treated equally. We reject differential treatment, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination,” a foreign ministry statement published on CGTN Africa read. China later moved to address the rupture crisis in China-Africa relations, but never admitted that there had been a problem.
Now Guangdong Province has announced new measures to stop discrimination against foreigners. Per the South China Morning Post, they are “the latest attempt to make amends with the African community following reports that Africans were being forcibly quarantined, kicked out of their homes and denied service in shops and hotels under the guise of controlling the spread of COVID-19.”
Nigeria’s House of Representatives last month passed an unprecedented motion to censure China for its mistreatment of Africans in Guangzhou. African social media remains lit up with complaints and shared videos about racism in China.
Guangdong’s new regulations are a tacit recognition that the incidents of discrimination were real and worth preventing in the future. It remains to be seen if these measures end up satisfying African civil society, especially in countries like South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria, where condemnation of China was loudest last month.