INTOLERABLE ABUSE

Owing China does not excuse violation of Africans' rights

As a country and continent, we must not sell our souls to the Chinese or any other state.

In Summary

• The response by African governments, including Kenya, has been appalling and even embarrassing.

• Merely summoning Chinese envoys and sending protest letters to the Chinese government is not enough.

A photo of some of the Africans let stranded on the streets in China following discrimination claims.
A photo of some of the Africans let stranded on the streets in China following discrimination claims.
Image: COURTESY

This week, the world witnessed how Africans were humiliated and their rights flagrantly abused by the Chinese government.

Persons of African descent were thrown out to the streets, beaten by both security forces and Chinese citizens and most spent their nights in the cold, sleeping on boxes and polythene bags on sidewalks.

As if this was not enough, when they protested the mistreatment, a good number of them were arrested by the Chinese police, who were ruthless in dealing with the Africans and in some cases used excessive force, hurting and injuring them in the process.

Social media was abuzz with these images. In many videos, there were sad scenes of Africans shivering in the cold in the alleys and passageways. In another video, Chinese locals armed with sticks can be seen beating Africans. So bad is the racial discrimination that in another video, a pregnant woman was denied entry to a hospital to have her condition assessed. What has been witnessed in China is state-sanctioned and citizens supported human rights violations of Africans.

According to official statements, we are told that the move to throw Africans to the streets is one of the many measures the Chinese government is taking to curb the spread of coronavirus. They argue that those thrown out were living in overcrowded homes. The authorities, therefore, had to eject them to ensure social distancing. However, the fact of the matter is that almost all foreigners in the developed world, including Asians and West Europeans, equally live in similar conditions. Why is it that we only saw Africans being thrown out to the streets? Does the coronavirus only affect Africans?

Further, how do we explain the refusal by a hospital to treat a pregnant woman? How is that related to social distancing or Covid-19? The right to medical treatment is a universal human right recognised by the international community and even the Chinese government. When a hospital chooses not to treat a person merely because of their skin colour, it is not only a violation of the right but also a despicable and intolerable treatment that has no place in the modern world. This is more so at a time when humanity is in distress and struggling to survive the coronavirus.

The response by African governments, including Kenya, has been appalling and even embarrassing. Merely summoning Chinese envoys and sending protest letters to Beijing is not enough.

In Kenya, we are being treated to excuses and justifications of the mistreatment, with the authorities claiming what we witnessed this week is partly because some of the victims were in China illegally. Yet in Kenya, many times when illegal Chinese immigrants are found, they are treated humanely, taken to court and deported with their dignity intact. They are never mistreated.

While we understand the need for diplomacy, it must be understood it is two-way traffic and should never be one-sided. When it comes to protecting their citizens, African governments, including Kenya, should talk tough and demand respect for its people.

The fact that Kenya owes China a lot of money does not mean our government should entertain outright violation of the rights of its people in China. Those Kenyans and Africans have their countries and are not stateless. China government and the Chinese people must remember that and treat them with the respect they deserve.

As a country and continent, we must not sell our souls to the Chinese or any other state. Merely a week ago, the French were talking of using Africans as guinea pigs for coronavirus. This week Africans en masse are violated because of their race.

Our governments’ approach so far leaves a lot to be desired. As a continent, we must send a strong message to China and the world that we will not allow being treated as second class citizens of the world.

Time to stand up and fight for our right to exist equally as all other races is now. We shall not remain silent. Enough is enough!