McDonald’s in China has apologised after a branch in the industrial city of Guangzhou barred black people from entering. A video shared on social media showed a notice that read: “We’ve been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant. McDonald’s said that when it found out about the notice it temporarily closed the restaurant. Tensions have been running high between Africans and local people in the city.
Last week, hundreds of Africans in Guangzhou were evicted from hotels and apartments after online rumours that coronavirus was spreading among African people, community leaders told the BBC. Guangzhou is a hub for African traders buying and selling goods and is home to one of China’s largest African communities.
The Guangdong provincial government has responded to concerns about discrimination by calling China and Africa good friends, partners and brothers.
It said it attached “great importance to some African countries’ concerns and is working promptly to improve” its way of operating. McDonald’s also responded, saying the ban on black people was “not representative of our inclusive values”.
“Immediately upon learning of an unauthorised communication to our guests at a restaurant in Guangzhou, we immediately removed the communication and temporarily closed the restaurant. The restaurant added that it had conducted “diversity and inclusion” training in the branch. Africans in Guangzhou say that they have been facing more than a week of discrimination.
Health workers have reportedly gone door-to-door testing Africans for coronavirus, many say regardless of whether they show any symptoms, have travelled, or have been in contact with Covid-19 patients.
Community leaders say that hundreds were forced out of their homes and hotel rooms and into quarantine. Video has emerged online of African people sleeping on the streets, in hotel lobbies, under bridges and outside police stations. The video filmed inside McDonald’s sparked anger both inside and outside China.
The African community in Guangzhou has been dwindling in recent years. There were once thought to be hundreds of thousands from the continent conducting business in the city, but today the number has fallen to just thousands. Many feel that their communities have been the target of discriminatory measures. Restrictions to visas have made many I have spoken to feel less welcome. Some feel that the coronavirus is being used as an excuse to target businessmen who overstay their visas.