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China province launches anti-racism push after outrage

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China’s southern Guangdong province has launched a raft of anti-discrimination policies targeting businesses and venues after a heavy-handed crackdown on the African community sparked international outrage last month.

Authorities in the provincial capital Guangzhou had started mass testing its African community shortly after a cluster of COVID-19 cases was found in a neighbourhood with a large migrant population, and a wave of reports about discrimination and xenophobia followed.

The new anti-racism rules, announced on the weekend, came after many Africans in Guangzhou said they had been forcibly evicted by police from their accommodation, refused service at shops and restaurants, and were subject to mass coronavirus testing and arbitrary quarantines.

Now, businesses and residential compounds “must implement non-discriminatory service… treat all Chinese and foreigners in Guangdong equally, and firmly oppose any racist or discriminatory speech and behaviour,” according to a Sunday report by the state-run China News Service.

The new policies appeared to address some of the concerns raised by the African community, banning public spaces from setting tighter entry requirements for certain nationalities and promising to punish buses and taxis who refuse foreign passengers.

They also ban landlords from cancelling housing contracts or increasing rent without explanation. However, the measures do not outline any specific punishments.

A total of 111 African nationals in Guangzhou have tested positive for COVID-19, including 19 imported cases, officials announced on April 11. The vast majority of imported cases in Guangdong province involved returning Chinese nationals.

McDonald’s China was among the businesses who came under fire. It apologised after a branch in Guangzhou displayed a sign banning black people from entry, prompting online outrage.

Thiam, a 25-year-old exchange student from Guinea, told AFP that he suffered discrimination in Guangzhou even after completing a 14-day home quarantine and producing a clean bill of health.

“Even when you go out and take the bus or metro, people start running away from you,” he said.

He added that when he tries booking a ride with the Didi app, “the driver will ask me if I’m black and then refuse to take me, saying black people are dangerous. It’s crazy!”