China dismissed allegations by African and US diplomats that foreigners of African appearance in Guangzhou were subjected to forceful testing for coronavirus, quarantine and ill treatment.
“We do not have discrimination in China against African brothers,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily news briefing, accusing the US of exploiting the issue to harm Beijing’s relations with African nations.
A group of African ambassadors in Beijing wrote to China State Councillor Wang Yi drawing attention to alleged discrimination Africans encountered in Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province. The US consulate in the city later issued an alert to citizens.
The alert advised African-Americans to stay away from Guangzhou metropolitan area, warning city authorities told bars and restaurants to refuse to serve people “appearing to be of African origin” and launched mandatory tests and self-quarantines for those with “African contacts.”
The ambassadors’ note highlighted reported incidents, including Africans ejected from hotels in the middle of the night, having passports seized and threatened with revocation of visas, deportation or arrest.
Denying discrimination, the foreign ministry spokesman reiterated China treats all foreigners equally.
“It is irresponsible and immoral for the US to sow discord,” Zhao said. “Its attempt to drive a wedge between China and Africa will never succeed.”
State Department officials continued the criticism calling the treatment “xenophobia”. “Chinese authorities must stop abuse of Africans living and studying in China,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a tweet.
“Videos and stories from #Guangzhou are appalling. Abuse and xenophobia have no place in our fight against this global pandemic,” said Tibor Nagy, assistant secretary for the State Department Bureau of African Affairs.
Ghana’s foreign minister and the leader of Nigeria’s lower house of parliament met with Chinese ambassadors to their countries about reports of mistreatment of Africans in Guangzhou.
Zhao did not directly comment on the ambassadors’ note, saying Guangdong rolled out “new measures” and Beijing was working with relevant African nations to resolve the issue. He did not elaborate on the new measures.
Having largely stamped out in-country transmission of coronavirus, authorities in China are worried a major risk of a second wave of the epidemic will stem from infected people from other countries.
Imported cases of the virus largely involve Chinese citizens returning home, rather than foreigners. On Sunday, China reported 108 new cases – the most in six weeks. Over 90% were imported with Chinese returning from Russia accounting for half.