Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nigerians in China

After the death of a Nigerian during an immigration raid in Guangzhou, China that incited the first ever protest by foreign nationals in the country in July of this year. Reuters has published an article examining the immigration struggle of Africans in China.

Here are some interesting excerpts from the article:

"They don't like black people to stay in China any more. They want us to go," said Frank, one of the Nigerians at the protest on July 15 that was filmed by witnesses.

"They treat us like animals," added Frank, an illegal overstayer, who wouldn't give his name for fear of reprisals.

The spontaneous protest -- a rare direct confrontation between foreigners and authorities in China -- is a vivid reminder of the challenges faced by Beijing's stability-obsessed Communist Party as it engages with the world and builds up trade links abroad.

In the past few years, tens of thousands of African and Arab traders have thronged to export hubs like Guangzhou and Yiwu in eastern China to seek their fortunes -- sourcing cheap China-made goods back home to massive markups in a growing, lucrative trade.

But just as mass Chinese immigration abroad has fanned recent social tensions in Africa and other places, the influx of large numbers of foreigners, particularly Africans, into China is altering the social fabric of cities like Guangzhou and proving a headache to authorities.

While this rising tide of foreigners has brought vast economic gains, the edgy cosmopolitanism of melding cultures and liberal ideals has been laced with racial and social tensions, along with the problem of illegal overstayers resorting to crime.

"While most black people are engaged in valuable trading activities, others are staying illegally, working without valid permits or smuggling," said Peng Peng, the research director of the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, a provincial thinktank.

"How to manage this is becoming a very big problem."

Some neighbourhood committees bar Africans from living in residential complexes, while Internet forums such as Tianya buzz with heated, at times xenophobic, discussions of "black person" issues in the city.

"A lot of Chinese don't like Africans, but there's nothing we can do. They're flooding into Guangzhou," wrote one blogger on Tianya. Others blamed the immigrants for problems from drug peddling and petty theft, to the spread of HIV among prostitutes.

In numerous interviews with African traders and illegal overstayers in the city, frustrations at restrictive and inconsistent visa policies have risen, exacerbating the plight of Africans opting to stay on expired visas to keep their businesses flowing, and thereby avoid costly flights home and back again.

"It's very rough," said Emeka Ven Chukwu, a 30-year-old Nigerian based in Guangzhou. "It's been happening for a long time. Even before the Olympics, it has been very difficult to extend (visas)."

Resentment towards the police has also grown amid the recent spate of overnight raids and perceptions of corruption.

"They just want to arrest you, collect money, then arrest you again," said Paul Omoshola, a Nigerian businessman in Guangzhou.

Visa extensions, seen as critical for traders and fixers to stay beyond the usual 30-day visa period -- while difficult to obtain through official channels -- can be arranged relatively easily through Chinese agents for large fees of $2,000 (1,200 pounds) upwards.

Ademola Oladele, a spokesman at the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing, noted the need for authorities to crack down on illegal overstayers. But he also expressed concern at the recent police raid that sparked such anger among hundreds of Nigerians.

"If there is any clamping down on illegal immigrants it's fine. That's their law. But it should not be done in an inhumane way or a way that could affect a life," said Oladele.


Sino-Africa trade exceeded the $100 billion mark last year, a jump of 45 percent on the year before, fuelled at one end by China's demand for Africa's energy and natural resources, and Africa's love of cheap Chinese goods at the other.

Despite all the problems facing Africans hoping to lay deeper roots in Guangzhou, securing short-term visas for events like the Canton Fair, Asia's top trade fair, is comparatively easy.

"It's a piece of cake," said Nampewo Sylivia, a young single businesswoman from Uganda happily browsing clumps of wigs made from real and fake hair at the Canaan Wholesale Trading Centre.

"It's still far easier to get a China visa than an American one," she added.

While African traders say business has fallen sharply this year given a slump in African demand during the downturn and sliding exchange rates, many remain drawn to China's potential.

"China produces nearly everything that you need in the world, said Omoshola, the Nigerian trader who was also at the protest.

"We are still here doing business," he added.

For the article in its entirety please check it out here

Related stories: Nigerian executed in China

Video report of Nigerians rioting in China

1 comment:

  1. Let our embassy in Beijing China be close, they are of no use to us, they are not helping. for example, some should call the embassy number, the way they talk to you is so rude and embarrassing, we do not have an embassy here in china.