Comments on African Protest Censored

Chinese authorities silence online discussion of protests sparked by the death of an African man in police custody.

guangzhou-african-protest-305 In a previous protest on July 15, 2009, Guangzhou police face off with Africans protesting after a Nigerian man died trying escape a visa check.

China's Internet censors on Wednesday deleted posts commenting on protests this week by Africans living in the southern city of Guangzhou after one of their number died in police custody.

One netizen said censors deleted a post he made following Tuesday's incident in which more than 100 Africans protested outside a Guangzhou police station.

"I wrote a microblog post which said that there were a lot of black people in Guangzhou, and that there was [also] an incident last year in which they got together and attacked a police station," wrote user @laolongkantianxia on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service.

"My post wound up getting deleted," the user wrote. "This is crazy."

Guangzhou television reported on the protest, which occurred after a man died in police custody Monday afternoon.

Xinhua said the man, who is believed to be Nigerian, "suddenly fell unconscious" at a police station and "died after medical efforts failed."

He had been taken into custody following a dispute over payment with a bicycle owner that turned physical, it said.

His death sparked a protest in Guangzhou which brought traffic to a halt and lasted for two hours on Tuesday, Xinhua said, citing an official from the Guangzhou municipal public security bureau.

The Xinhua report said police have launched an investigation into the death and that "police in Guangzhou have called for foreigners to abide by Chinese law and refrain from disturbing public order."

An employee who answered the phone at the Guangzhou municipal police department confirmed that large numbers of police had been sent to the scene of the protest.


One netizen commented, "Too bad you're a black guy. If you'd been a white guy, the police would have just told the other guy to let the matter drop."

Comments by one Guangzhou shop owner suggested there was a degree of ethnic tension between local Chinese residents and Guangzhou's large African population, citing fears by Chinese business owners of shoplifting and robbery by Africans. But he gave no details of specific incidents.

However, a second store owner said of the protests, "I think it's just an organized action, just like we Chinese would do if were overseas and one of us was badly treated. We would all band together and demand an explanation," he said.

"There are a lot of Africans around here, mostly businessmen," he said. "They are pretty nice and polite."

The protest comes ahead of a high-profile China-Africa summit that China is expected to host next month, and amid a continuing crackdown in Beijing and Shanghai on foreigners who are in breach of immigration rules.

Beijing launched a 100-day campaign to "clean up" foreigners living or working illegally in the city and has stepped up police checks on foreign nationals.

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service and by Pan Jiaqing for the Cantonese service. Translated and written by Luisetta Mudie.

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