The Nigerian government has reacted angrily to the alleged maltreatment of its citizens and other African nationals in China over COVID-19, saying it would take issues up with the Chinese government and respond appropriately.
Judicial Sketch had earlier reported “allegations that Africans in southern China’s largest city have become targets of suspicion and subjected to forced evictions, arbitrary quarantines and mass COVID-19 testing as the country clamps down on ‘imported infections’.”
AFP reported several Africans saying they had been forcibly evicted from their homes and turned away by hotels, and the US State Department issued an alert advising African Americans, or those with potential contact with African nationals, to avoid Guangzhou.
The government Nigeria also indicated that it would be in the forefront of deciding the reaction of all Africans who have suffered one form of discrimination or the other.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama made this known during the daily briefing of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 in Abuja on Thursday.
The minister said Nigeria had “drawn a red line” for the Chinese authorities on the maltreatment of its citizens and the entire black race, adding that the country will not compromise the dignity of its citizens and all people of black colour because of economic cooperation with China.
He said “We have been engaging with the Chinese government at various levels. At the level of our consulate in Guangzhou, which is where cases of discrimination and racism have been taking place.
“We have made it clear to the Chinese government in no uncertain terms, unequivocally that under no circumstance will we accept a racial discrimination against Nigerians or indeed Africans or blacks in China. That is a red line for us.
“They have in turn told us that there is no case of that but clearly we have seen a video, I have received reports and we told them that it is unacceptable and we are also engaging with other African countries to decide and work together, definitive steps and measures that we will take because of this situation.
“In addition, I have directed our consulate in Guangzhou to systematically detail every single case of discrimination and every single case of loss or damage suffered by any Nigerian. We will pursue each and every single one very robustly with the Chinese government. If it requires compensation and damages, etc, we will demand for them.
“So, for us, it is a red line and we are going to fight it to the very end. We are extremely disappointed because we have excellent relations with government and people of China. We are therefore surprised that such a thing can happen at this stage.
“When there were calls for travels to China to be banned when they had the outbreak in Wuhan, we went along with the World Health Organisation (WHO) advice not to place a ban on China.
“We showed real solidarity because we also had our own experience of epidemics with Ebola and so forth.” We are deeply wounded by what has happened to Nigerians and other Africans in China and of course the government has given us explanations.
“But it is something we never expected and we will pursue to its final conclusion and we would not make any compromises in doing so.”
The minister equally said “I can assure you that we are going to pursue to the very end, irrespective of whatever economic cooperation that we have with China, this matter because in the world of today, we absolutely can’t tolerate and accept any form of racism or discrimination against blacks as the largest black country in the world.”
Nigerian governments are not known to take the rights of their citizens in foreign countries seriously, and the minister’s reaction has been dismissed as mere verbal vituperation that would not be backed by any action.