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Updated Apr 16, 2020

China’s Relations with Africa Under the Spotlight

 

This file photo taken on March 2, 2018 shows people gathering on a street in the "Little Africa" district in Guangzhou, the capital of southern China's Guangdong province. Africans in southern China's largest city say they have become targets of suspicion and subjected to forced evictions, arbitrary quarantines and mass coronavirus testing as the country steps up its fight against imported infections. (Fred DUFOUR/AFP)
People gathering on a street in the “Little Africa” district in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province in southern China. Africans in the city say they have become targets of suspicion and are subjected to forced evictions, arbitrary quarantine, and mass COVID-19 testing as the country steps up its fight against imported infections. (Fred Dufour / AFP)

 

A diplomatic row has broken out between China and many African countries as hundreds of African students, workers, and tradespeople have reported being harassed and arbitrarily evicted from their homes and from hotels in Guangzhou, a southern Chinese city that houses the largest African diaspora community in Asia. A recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in the area has been blamed on African expats, which, some say, is based on a general ambivalence toward Africans among local Chinese residents.

Driven by fear and xenophobia, Africans have suffered arbitrary quarantines and testing (often without receiving test results), been denied service in restaurants, and have been kicked out of their homes by their landlords or local officials. 

 

Ethiopians Deported from Saudi Arabia

Similar disregard for Africans living overseas can be observed in Saudi Arabia, where Ethiopians make up a large percentage of domestic workers, many of whom are subjected to abuse and slave-like conditions. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Saudi Arabia has thus far deported 2,870 Ethiopian migrants to Addis Ababa since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the pandemic continues to evolve, minority populations face the dangerous prospect of being scapegoated by opportunistic political parties and movements, which will require a concerted effort by state authorities to address public health needs without blaming vulnerable groups for their own failures.

 

 

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