Africans in Guangzhou
- This article is about the community in Guangzhou, China. For other uses, please see Africatown (disambiguation).
Africans in Guangzhou are immigrants from Africa to Guangzhou in China. They are primarily concentrated in the Yuexiu District and Baiyun District. 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.
Professor Ma Qiang noted that many African immigrants congregated around one area of town primarily because large numbers of Muslims, which are said to make up around half of Guangzhou's African 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 Muslims from Africa to settle.
Conflict 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.
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.
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.
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