After early reports out of China painted a troubling picture of increased racism and xenophobia toward Black people amid the coronavirus pandemic, it seems tensions between Black foreigners and Chinese nationals have heightened. BuzzFeed reports that Black people who have publicly shared their personal experiences of discrimination within the communist country are now receiving intimidating visits from the Chinese police.
A Ugandan woman who spoke to BuzzFeed on the condition of anonymity recalled a frustrating search for shelter and food after China went into lockdown. She was thrown out of her original hotel and forced to look for alternative lodging, and then after securing a space following several rebuffs, she realized finding food would become an even greater issue. She shared her experience of racism on Facebook, and shortly after posting, she received a visit from “two groups” of police officers.
According to the report, the Chinese police had located her at her hotel and demanded that she delete the video. The intimidating encounter was heightened after the officers took “dozens of pictures” of her without giving a clear reason for why they were necessary. A parting gift from the officers included a face mask, hand sanitizer and tea bags with the warning to work with them or “we’ll not be nice.”
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Multiple people have come forward to say that sharing stories of racism in China has led to them receiving a visit from Chinese authorities. Not only does it reveal a pattern of close social media monitoring, the BuzzFeed report contends that they have also been infiltrating WhatsApp groups created for Black foreigners living in China.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry of China said, “During our fight against the coronavirus, the Chinese government has been attaching great importance to the life and health of foreign nationals in China. All foreigners are treated equally.” The statement went on to say that “authorities attach great importance to some African countries’ concerns and are working promptly to improve their working method.”
Claims of improved treatment toward Blacks come weeks after McDonald’s apologized for one restaurant’s decision to place a ban on Black patrons. The restaurant in Guangzhou was later closed and the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a strong condemnation. Still, the situation for Black foreigners remains dire.