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Lesotho nationals safe in China: Makgothi

Nthatuoa Koeshe

FOREIGN Affairs and International Relations Minister Lesego Makgothi says Lesotho nationals are safe in China and continue to enjoy good hospitality despite widespread reports of Africans being harassed in the Asian nation.

The Africans, mostly Nigerians, have accused China of mistreating them over fears that they could spread the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) in that country. The claims came after stories of Africans being evicted from their residential homes in Guangzhou, China went viral on social media.

According to Los Angeles Times, African evictions came shortly after Guangzhou authorities announced that five Nigerians had tested positive for COVID-19. Within days, a campaign was launched to test and track all Africans in that port city.

“The sudden and sweeping move was consistent with China’s response to the coronavirus. But it was propelled by a troubling logic that targeted people based on race rather than their contact history. The measure ignited a diplomatic outcry and a crisis on Guangzhou’s streets.

“Some of the displaced Africans were long-time residents forced from their homes. Others were businessmen who’d completed 14-day quarantines, but then couldn’t find any hotels that would accept them.

“They roamed the streets in the rain and slept under highway overpasses, huddled on the pavement in face masks. They filmed videos of police shouting at them, pressing young men to a wall, and of signs posted in apartment building and restaurants — including McDonald’s — saying: ‘No blacks”, the Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday.

Videos posted on social media over the weekend also showed people of African descent being evicted from homes and hotels, sleeping rough and being refused service in shops.

COVID-19 broke out in China’s Wuhan city last December before spreading to other countries. As of yesterday, more than 2, 3 million infections have been reported and there were about 155 000 deaths worldwide. Many countries including Lesotho have imposed lockdowns closing businesses and limiting the movements of people to stop the spread of the virus.

Although China has recorded significant reductions in the number of new infections, Mr Makgothi recently told the Sunday Express the Asian country is still implementing compulsory coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for its nationals as well as foreigners.

He said China discovered that there were many illegal immigrants mainly from West Africa when it introduced the compulsory testing and many of these were shying away from being tested for fear of being found out. He said as a result the Chinese authorities were left with no choice but to order their evictions from their residences.

Mr Makgothi warned against misinterpreting events in China to suggest that there was wholesale targeting and ill-treatment of Africans. The minister said even the Chinese Ambassador to Lesotho, Lei Kezhong, had assured him that his country had not gone out of its way to target Africans for discrimination.

“China has introduced a policy of testing every individual in that country to ensure that no one poses a danger of spreading the deadly coronavirus,” he said,” in an interview with the Sunday Express. He added that Chinese health inspectors were forced to evict people from their residences who were found without a coronavirus green card showing that they had been tested and were free of the virus.

The minister also allayed fears that Lesotho nationals were affected by the evictions as all of them had valid visas and had not objected to the testing.

“There has not been any case (of eviction) involving a Mosotho. All Lesotho nationals in China for different engagements are there legally and they have valid visas,” he said.

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