Let’s just say that African customers craving a Big Mac from McDonald’s for lunch in Guangzhou were not lovin’ it when they discovered that they had been banned from entering the restaurant. A branch of the fast-food chain posted a notice stating, “We’ve been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant.”
Guangzhou is home to one of China’s largest African communities. It is a hub for African traders to buy and sell goods. Tensions are high between Chinese locals and Africans in the city. Blame the coronavirus for this incident. Online rumors that the virus is spreading among Africans in Guangzhou has resulted in hundreds of Africans being evicted from hotels and apartments. A video was posted on social media that shows the notice.
Again, for those who still doubt that Black people and particularly #AfricansinChina are being targeted we feel it is our duty to share this. A sign at a @McDonalds restaurant seems to make this perfectly clear pic.twitter.com/FaveKrdQHi
— Black Livity China (@BlackLivityCN) April 11, 2020
You can see in that video that the McDonald’s employee is wearing a face mask but not gloves and is holding what looks to be a thermometer.
Needless to say, once the notice went up on social media, McDonald’s was quick to react to the blowback.
In response to the sign at its China fast-food chain, McDonald’s Corporation issued a statement saying, “this is not representative of our inclusive values.”
“As a brand, as a company and as more than 2.2 million people serving nearly 120 countries around the world, this is not representative of our inclusive values. Immediately upon learning of an unauthorized communication to our guests at a restaurant in Guangzhou, we immediately removed the communication and temporarily closed the restaurant,” the statement read.
And you know what happened next, right? Time for some re-education, so to speak. Would you like fries with that sensitivity training?
The company said that during the temporary closure, they will use the time “to further educate managers and employees on our values, which includes serving all members of the communities in which we operate.”
Concern for African Americans has resulted in the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou advising them “to avoid the Guangzhou metropolitan area until further notice.”
The U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou has warned U.S. citizens of the escalated scrutiny and discrimination of foreign nationals in the region which include orders by the police for bars and restaurants to not serve people who appear to be of African descent.
The xenophobic reaction to COVID-19 also includes some businesses and hotels refusing to do business with African Americans, according to the Consulate. For anyone with “African contacts,” regardless of whether you have been quarantined or whether you have traveled, local officials are conducting mandatory tests for the novel coronavirus.
Various African governments have weighed in on the subject.
The Speaker said there should be an official explanation for treating Nigerians in such a manner.
"As a government, we will not allow Chinese or other nationals to be maltreated just as we will not allow Nigerians to be maltreated in other countries. pic.twitter.com/ZZgZv1Vv3s
— Speaker of the House of Representatives (@SpeakerGbaja) April 10, 2020
Urgent Notice. Kindly Share. pic.twitter.com/HpcnRYsBaC
— Ghana MFA (@GhanaMFA) April 11, 2020
China’s foreign minister tried to blame the United States for “undermining” the China-Africa relationship.
“As a response to U.S. attempt to undermine China-Africa relations, I would say our friendship with Africa is unbreakable,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
“The Chinese government has attached high importance to the health & safety of foreign nationals in China,” he continued. “We treat them equally and reject any discriminatory measures in our outbreak response.”
Africans in Guangzhou are complaining that they are facing increased discrimination. It is being reported that health workers are going door to door testing Africans for coronavirus whether they display symptoms, have traveled, or been in contact with anyone who has COVID-19. Visas have been restricted. Some Africans are being forced into quarantine despite testing negative for the virus.
On March 28 China banned all foreigners from entering the country including those with visas and residence permits. Foreigners are being blamed for a spike in new coronavirus infections. On Sunday, China’s national health commission reported a five-week high of new infections – 108. All but 10 came from abroad. The fear of the second wave of infections is blamed for abuses taking place against foreigners. Some Africans now say they have never felt welcome in China and the coronavirus is being used as an excuse for the Chinese to act on their underlying fears.
Africans have short term visas due to frequent travel in and out of China for business. This makes it difficult to calculate the size of the African population in Guangzhou. In 2017, approximately 320,000 Africans entered or left China through Guangzhou.