Testing, testing, testing. To defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, testing is crucial for all, worldwide. Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province in China, is no exception.
As of April 23, altogether 138,700 residents in Guangzhou, including 5,503 African nationals (3.97%), have been tested since April 5. Among them, 185 tested positive with 164 (88.5%) asymptomatic cases. Their cooperation is highly appreciated.
Since April 16, the Foreign Affairs Office of Guangzhou has been daily briefing Nigeria’s Consulate-General by note on the numbers of confirmed cases, test result positive cases, and close contacts, as far as Nigerian nationals are concerned. Frankly, the percentage of Nigerian nationals affected by the virus in Guangzhou is disproportionately high.
There might be some incidents and misunderstanding during the implementation of the anti-epidemic measures. It could happen anywhere in the world in this trying time. Nevertheless, China’s policies and measures after the COVID-19 broke out all aim to protect the safety and health of Chinese and foreign nationals. This is our sole purpose. This is Guangzhou’s sole purpose.
In this regard, I wish to bring to your attention to an open letter to all Chinese and foreign nationals in Guangdong issued by the Provincial Foreign Affairs Office on April 18.
“Guangdong is a province with a large population, prosperous economy, developed foreign trade, and a high degree of opening up to the outside world in China. It is held dear as the beautiful home by Chinese and foreign nationals living in harmony here. Under the strong leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping and the CPC Central Committee, Guangdong has implemented science-based, legal measures in an orderly manner in the prevention and control of COVID-19 since the outbreak, and people in Guangdong have all worked together in this fight. Through unremitting efforts, positive trend in preventing and controlling COVID-19 has been constantly consolidated and expanded. In this process, we have received care and support from consulates general in Guangzhou, foreign governments, NGOs and friendly people, which we highly appreciate and will always remember and cherish,” says the letter.
The letter continues to emphasize, “At present, the entire landscape of epidemic prevention and control remains challenging and complex, and we are still faced with great pressure of guarding against imported cases and domestic resurgence. For the safety and health of Chinese and foreign nationals in Guangdong, it is necessary for us to join hands in building stronger defense against COVID-19. Virus does not respect borders, nor does it distinguish between races. People of the world must work together if we want to win this battle. Hence, we would like to state the following:
A. Governments at all levels in Guangdong have taken comprehensive, strict and thorough prevention and control measures, and have strictly applied undifferentiated health management service to both Chinese and foreign nationals in Guangdong in accordance with laws and regulations. All foreign nationals in China are treated equally.
B. Humanistic care is provided when implementing epidemic prevention and control measures and offering health management service. We give full consideration to reasonable concerns of Chinese and foreign nationals and provide necessary guarantee and assistance to effectively protect their legitimate rights and interests.
C. All Chinese and foreign nationals in Guangdong are obliged to cooperate with governments at all levels and relevant departments to implement prevention and control measures according to Chinese laws and regulations. Those who violate the laws or regulations shall be held accountable.
D. We firmly oppose any discriminatory practice against specific individual or group, and allow zero tolerance for discriminatory remarks and deeds.
E. Any organization or individual shall not restrict or refuse providing hotel accommodation and renting houses to any specific group of people because of their nationality, race, gender or skin colour. Nor should they be denied free access to such public venues as local communities, shops and parks.
F. Any organization or individual shall not restrict or turn away any specific group of people from taking metro, buses, taxis or other public transportation because of their nationality, race, gender or skin colour, and shall not refuse to provide daily services including hair cutting, shopping and catering for them.
G. Any organization or individual shall not apply differentiated treatment or discriminatory practices to any specific group of people because of their nationality, race, gender or skin colour when they are seeking medical care in medical institutions.
H. Government at all levels in Guangdong respect and protect the diplomatic and consular privileges and immunities of foreign diplomatic or consular personnel in China, and provide facilitation for them in fulfilling diplomatic and consular duties.
I. In this special period of time, we encourage all Chinese and foreign nationals in Guangdong to obtain the latest information concerning epidemic prevention and control from authoritative sources, and to maintain a rational and objective attitude.
J. We provide assistance for foreign nationals in Guangdong who have any reasonable request concerning epidemic prevention and control. Our multilingual service hotline 1258088 is 24-hour available.”
“We look forward to working with all Chinese and foreign nationals in Guangdong to tide over the difficulties, safeguard the common health and well-being of all, to win the battle against COVID-19, and protect our beautiful homeland,” concludes the letter.
China and Africa are good friends, partners and brothers. There is nothing whatsoever changed in China’s policy of friendship towards Africa. China highly values her strategic partnership with Nigeria.
On April 13, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reiterated China’s position in his remarks on Guangdong’s anti-epidemic measures concerning African citizens in China, “We treat all foreign nationals equally. We reject differential treatment, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination.”
“The Guangdong authorities attach great importance to some African countries’ concerns and are working promptly to improve their working method. The measures include: to provide health management services without differentiation, to designate hotels for the accommodation of foreigners required to undergo medical observation and adopt price adjustment for those in financial difficulties; to set up effective communication mechanism with foreign consulates-general in Guangzhou; and to reject all racist and discriminatory remarks. The Chinese people always see in the African people partners and brothers through thick and thin. China-Africa friendship is unbreakable as it is deeply rooted in this land. African friends can count on getting fair, just, cordial and friendly reception in China. The foreign ministry will stay in close communication with the Guangdong authorities and continue responding to the African side’s reasonable concerns and legitimate appeals, ” the Spokesperson said.
Recently, some Nigerian friends offered to share with me photos and videos circulating on social media. I have responded with my comments. Here I wish to share some latest findings by AFP Fact Check on its website.
“Africans living in southern China say they have been victims of arbitrary evictions and discrimination as the country steps up its fight against imported infections, as AFP reported. On April 11, 2020, as reported by AFP, the African Union expressed its ‘extreme concern’ about the situation and called on Beijing to take action.
However, the video circulating on social media has nothing to do with China. In fact, the clip shows a fight in a district of the Bronx in New York and first appeared online on March 18.”
You may double check it for yourself at https://factcheck.afp.com/video-was-filmed-new-york-not-china.
There is another video concerning the “government property” passports going viral on social media among Nigerian friends including the honorable minority leader of the House of representative. Upon his request, the Ambassador watched that video on his mobile phone on April 10.
To avoid any misunderstanding, on April 12, I issued a statement in Chinese and English. It goes as follows,
“On April 10, Ambassador Zhou Pingjian met with Rt.Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nigeria at his instance. During the meeting, the Ambassador was offered to watch a mobile phone video clip about the purported improper treatment on some Nigerian citizens in Guangzhou, China. The Ambassador made it clear that judging from the one video clip on that mobile phone the approach of the relevant epidemic prevention and control personnel was not inappropriate. We treat all foreign nationals equally in China. We reject differential treatment and have zero tolerance for discrimination. To prevent and control the pandemic, we need understanding, support and cooperation from both Chinese and foreign nationals in China. We urge all foreigners in China strictly observe local anti-epidemic regulations. China values her friendly relations with Nigeria. The Embassy stands ready to keep in communication with the Nigerian side in this regard.
“To keep social distance during the pandemic, the said mobile phone with the video clip was placed on the tea table. Any other interpretation of the scene does not conform with what was actually there during the meeting.”
The concerned practice in China is not uncommon. Similar stipulation can also be found in Section 3 of Article 1 of the Immigration Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, “An immigration officer may examine, and may detain for such time as he thinks proper for the purposes of examination (not exceeding seven days), any document produced pursuant to or found on a search under this section.”
China and Nigeria are allies in this ongoing global war against the COVID-19 pandemic. To defeat the virus, solidarity and cooperation is our most potent weapon.
China will never forget the invaluable support it received from the Government and good people of Nigeria, including those Nigerian brothers and sisters who chose to stay put in Wuhan, or other parts of China, at the most demanding stage of its outbreak response.
Despite the daunting task remaining at home, China firmly supports Nigeria’s fight against the outbreak and stands ready to assist, if needed, to the best of its ability. This joint battle against the COVID-19 pandemic will surely strengthen trust, cooperation and brotherhood between our two great nations and peoples.
• Sun Saixiong is the Press Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria.