Africans in Guangzhou
- This article is about the community in Guangzhou, China. For other uses, please see Africatown (disambiguation).
Africans in Guangzhou are a sizeable community of black Africans primarily concentrated in Yuexiu District and Baiyun District in Guangzhou, China. Since the country's late 1990s economic boom, thousands of African traders and businesspeople predominantly from West Africa migrated to the city of Guangzhou, creating an African community in the middle of the southern Chinese metropolis. As a relatively new phenomenon in China, the influx of Africans to Guangzhou has been met with mixed reactions from the local population, and opened new discussions on racism, xenophobia, and immigration, previously unseen in modern China.
Academics have attempted to estimate the size of the population. Huang Shiding of the Guangzhou Institute of Social Sciences (Chinese: 广州社科院) in 2007 estimated the number of permanent residents of foreign nationality (six months and above) to be around 50,000, of which some 20,000 are of African origin. Roberto Castillo, a graduate student researching Africans in Guangzhou, estimated in 2013 fewer than 10,000 Africans residing in Guangzhou and 20-30,000 Africans travelling through Guangzhou at any one time. Castillo cautions that firm numbers are difficult as many Africans in Guangzhou are in constant transit so the concept of residence in this context is different from the usual understanding.
A 2014 article in the magazine This Is Africa noted observations by locals of a decline in Africans and cited reasons including a lower demand in Africa for imports from China and immigration enforcement by local police.
Since China's economic boom in the 1990s, thousands of Africans arrived in China predominantly from Nigeria, Mali, Guinea, Cameroon, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Most have chosen to go to Guangzhou due to its close proximity to factories and other manufacturing facilities. Some have applied for permanent residency or work permits, but they are of the minority. A large number are in China on tourist visas. Many are traders who deal Chinese goods produced locally for resale both in China and back in Africa.
A large number of Africans living in the area have reportedly overstayed their visas, or use false passports, leading to increased suspicion from local police and higher frequency of arbitrary visa inspections on the streets. Some Africans say that staying in China illegally is inevitable because it is impossible to finish off the business they'd came for within a 30-day time frame and they cannot afford a plane ticket home.
Tussles between the African community and police in Guangzhou resulted in civil disturbance incidents in 2009 and 2012. In the first incident in July 2009, a Nigerian man died after jumping several floors from a building in an attempt to flee Chinese immigration authorities. On July 15, hundreds of Africans, mostly Nigerian, demonstrated at the local Public Security Bureau station, and shut down eight lanes of traffic on a major thoroughfare for several hours. In the other incident in June 2012, an African held by police in custody after a taxi fare dispute died after suddenly losing consciousness according to police. Hundreds of Africans gathered at the police station of the incident and clashed with police.
The Guangzhou customs authority reports African suspects among nationalities arrested on drug trafficking charges. A Guangzhou police raid on a drug ring located in the city's Yuexiu district led to the arrest of 168 suspects, most described by police as citizens of Nigeria and Mali. Nigerians are heavily represented among Africans arrested for fraud, drug trafficking and various scams.
Many Africans describe racial bias in the attitude of locals.
Opinions of Africans vary widely amongst Chinese according to a survey conducted by Dr. Li Zhigang. Results showed dramatic differences in the acceptance and antagonism of Africans in Guangzhou. Of those surveyed, 86% of white-collar workers reported antagonism towards black people, compared to 80% of freelancers and 65% of students. Yet the groups which came into daily contact with the black population reported more favourable results. Those who worked in the service industry, for example, reported a 65% acceptance rating, while businesspeople overwhelmingly accepted black people at 88%. Business people interviewed by a reporter from the Toronto Star, described Africans as more honest and trustworthy business partners compared to other groups.
An editorial by Nanfengchuang magazine noted problems in local attitudes towards Africans: "To the Chinese, black people are just black people. They don't know the difference between a black person from Congo or from Nigeria. They can't tell apart a black Muslim from a black Christian. To them, they are all the same. Due to this ignorance and increasing segregation, problems involving individual black people becomes magnified into problems involving the entire black community."
Professor Ma Qiang noted that black people congregated around one area of town not only out of a sense of community, but primarily because large number of Muslims, which are said to make up around half of Guangzhou's black population, settled around areas where halal food is served. Thus areas such as Xiaobei, which were originally inhabited by Chinese Muslims from places such as Ningxia and Xinjiang, became the natural setting for African Muslims to settle.
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- Pan, Xiaobo (2008-01-23). "Chocolate City - Africans searching for the Chinese Dream". Southern Weekend.
- Ke Xuedong and Du An'na (2007-12-13). "广州黑人达20万 黑人强奸案直线上升(组图)". Shenzhen News Network. Retrieved 2010-05-16.
- "How many Africans are there in Guangzhou?".
- "Going east: African migrants head for China". This is Africa. February 2014.
- "Africans protest in Guangzhou after passport checks". China Daily. July 16, 2009.
- "Africans Protest in Guangzhou (Video)". Toronto Star. 2009-07-30.
- "Protest in China over Guangzhou death in custody". BBC News. 20 June 2012.
- Wang, Huazhong (2010-06-26). "More foreigners involved in drug trafficking cases". China Daily.
- "Guangzhou police smash West African-led drugs ring". Dongguan Today. 2013-08-15.
- Zhen Jinghui (2009-09-11). "非洲黑人在广州 Black People in Guangzhou". Nanfengchuang. Retrieved 2011-09-06.