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‘We Need Help’: Coronavirus Fuels Racism Against Black Americans in China

  • June 02, 2020

“African-Americans in Guangzhou are collateral damage of a policy implemented to target Africans, in which Chinese don’t check your visa, just the color of your skin,” said Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “In a bigger context, the Chinese perceive Africans doing business in China as ripping off the state, not paying taxes and overstaying their visas.”

By waging a sweeping anticoronavirus campaign against dark-skinned people, she said, “they’re trying to get rid of them.”

Gordon Mathews, the chairman of the anthropology department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a co-author of “The World in Guangzhou: Africans and Other Foreigners in South China’s Global Marketplace,” was less forceful.

“There is racism in China,” he said, “but this is more likely to be panic over coronavirus than any long-term policy.”

Guangzhou officials at first denied any discrimination. Then amid an international outcry, they issued rules this month that prohibited unequal treatment. But enforcement is lax, say African-Americans in Guangzhou, and abuses persist.

“Prior to this, I was perfectly fine,” Mr. Remmington said. Now, he added, “as I come into a grocery store, people are literally running outside, fearing for their life.”

Last month, an African-American teacher in Guangzhou, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, was confined for 14 days to a locked hospital isolation room, despite repeatedly testing negative for the virus. After having “a mental breakdown,” she said, she pleaded with the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to intervene.

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