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COVID-19: Why Nigerians in China were attacked, dehumanised

OGBONNA Maximus, President of the Association of Nigerian Community in Guangzhou, China on Monday explained why Nigerians in China were attacked and dehumanised by the Chinese authorities.

Maximus said though some of the mistreatments and inhumane incidents meted out to Nigerians and other blacks, occurred in Guangzhou district, and did not extend to the whole of China as widely reported.

OGBONNA Maximus, President of the Association of Nigerian Community in Guangzhou, China Photo Source: Arise TV

In a phone interview with Channels Sunrise television programme, he said the incident was caused by a Nigerian who tested positive in Guangzhou district and attempted an escape from a treatment facility.

He said the Nigerian, in the process, injured a nurse and was reported in the news media; hence the reason for the abuses and discrimination.

“A Nigerian tested positive and he was admitted into the hospital. In one of the days, he tried to escape from the hospital and bumped into a nurse, and the nurse was injured. It was reported in the news that a Nigerian had a COVID-19 and he was trying to escape and injured a nurse,” Maximus said in a phone-in conversation.

“So, that flared and worsen the situation, this made the Chinese people in Guangzhou continue to get afraid of our people.”

He said China believes it has completely curtailed the virus spread with concerns that reported cases were those imported into the Chinese territory by foreigners.

This, he said, made the authority to commence compulsory testing of foreigners.

But he described as a major challenge, lack of proper communication from the Chinese government to the respective embassies including the Nigerian consulate.

“When it happened, they did not inform our consulate or our embassy. They begin to chase people from their homes, forcing them into quarantine…,” he said.

“Asking people to go into quarantine is good but the way they went about it made the people feel bad.”

He debunked claims that only Africans were targeted for the COVID-19 but noted that once a foreigner is confirmed negative, he is given a particular document to serve as clearance.

On the Nigerian that attempted an escape, Maximus disclosed that he met with the accused person, who said, “he was sleeping when the nurse woke him up. He said he did not know what really happened but was sorry for his action.”

It could be recalled that Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Oyeama had respectively summoned Zhou Pingjian, the Chinese Ambassador in Nigeria, over the wrong treatment meted out to Nigerians in China.

At the meeting, the envoy said he was ignorant of the incident but was urged to view footages of the poor-treatment which other concerned individuals described as human rights abuse.

On 13 April, the African Union Commission through the Deputy Chairperson, Kwesi Quartey invited Amb. Liu Yuxi, the Chinese envoy to the AU, over the alleged brutalities on African descents.

At the meeting, Yuxi expressed regret over the incidents assuring that the accused security operatives had been sanctioned.

“…Yuxi informed the deputy chairperson that, the Chinese whose social media post caused the unfortunate incident has been arrested. Also, law enforcement personnel exerting excessive force have been reprimanded and cautioned to exercise restraint whilst discharging their duties. He also mentioned that two hotels have been secured for the affected Africans and the cost would be borne by the Chinese Government,” statement from the AUC read. “Furthermore, seized passports and personal belongings have been retrieved and handed over to their rightful owners, Amb. Yuxi added.”

Maximus, however, applauded the Nigerian Embassy in China for their intervention on the matter stressing that the embassy officials had been visiting hotels and other locations to provide needed supports to the affected persons.

He acknowledged that the situation was getting better but emphasised that the Chinese government needed to do more.

He further revealed that some Nigerians had already indicated interests to return home.

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