African Ambassadors Complain to Beijing About Discrimination Incidents Amid Pandemic

April 12, 2020Updated: April 12, 2020

JOHANNESBURG—African ambassadors in China have written to the country’s foreign minister over what they call discrimination against Africans as the Chinese regime seeks to prevent a resurgence of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Several African countries have separately also demanded that China address their concerns that Africans, in particular in the southern city of Guangzhou, are being mistreated and harassed.

While the Chinese regime has said it’s concerned about imported cases and is stepping up scrutiny of foreigners coming into the country and tightening border controls, it has denied claims of discrimination.

In recent days, Africans in Guangzhou have reported being ejected from their apartments by their landlords, being tested for coronavirus several times without being given results, and being shunned and discriminated against in public. Such complaints have been made in local media, and on social media.

The ambassadors’ note said such “stigmatization and discrimination” creates the false impression that the virus is being spread by Africans.

“The Group of African Ambassadors in Beijing immediately demands the cessation of forceful testing, quarantine, and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans,” it said.

The note was sent to China‘s top diplomat, Wang Yi, with copies sent to the chair of the African Union, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and all African foreign ministers.

The Chinese foreign ministry’s International Press Center didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the note, sent outside of business hours.

The Chinese embassy in South Africa also didn’t respond.

Foreign affairs official Liu Baochun told a news conference on April 12 that Guangzhou is enforcing anti-virus measures on anyone who enters the city from across the national border, regardless of nationality, race, or gender.


The ambassadors’ note highlighted a number of reported incidents, including that Africans were being ejected from hotels in the middle of the night, the seizure of passports, and threats of visa revocation, arrest, or deportation.

On April 11, Ghana’s foreign minister of affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, said she had summoned the Chinese ambassador to express her disappointment and demand action.

Kenya’s foreign ministry has also “officially expressed concern,” adding the government is working with Chinese authorities to address the matter.

Nigerian legislator Akinola Alabi on April 10 tweeted a video of a meeting between the leader of Nigeria’s lower house of parliament, Femi Gbajabiamila, and Chinese Ambassador Zhou Pingjian. In it, Gbajabiamila demanded an explanation from the diplomat after showing Zhou a video of a Nigerian complaining about mistreatment in China.

In response to the questions from the house leader, the ambassador that he took the complaints “very seriously” and promised to convey them to officials back home.

By Elias Biryabarema and Emma Rumney