AGENCIES, Beijing: On Saturday, Kenya’s biggest newspaper ran a lead story with the headline, “Kenyans in China: Rescue us from hell,” as a member of the country’s parliament called for Chinese nationals to leave Kenya immediately.
This was a typical reaction that has reached the doors of diplomacy after similar reports of alleged coronavirus-related discrimination against African nationals in China sparked widespread anger across the African continent.
As China recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, its health authorities started focusing on possible sources of infections coming from resident or travelling foreigners. In a massive drive last week, students and expatriates of African origin were targeted in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and were to forced to undergo coronavirus testing and arbitrary 14-day self-quarantine, regardless of recent travel history. Due to this action, many of them found themselves stranded in foreign soil after being evicted by landlords or rejected by hotels in the city.
The fallout threatens to undermine China’s diplomatic efforts in Africa. In recent years, African nations have become key diplomatic and trade partners to Beijing, with China’s trade with Africa worth $208 billion in 2019, according to official figures from China’s General Administration of Customs.
In a statement released Sunday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian denied China had been singling out foreigners.
“We are still facing great risks of imported cases and domestic resurgence. Particularly, as the pandemic spreads all over the world, imported cases are causing mounting pressure,” said Zhao.