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African Expats Fight to Stay in Guangzhou as Policies Tighten

Posted: 07/18/2014 11:39 am

african communityWhile many expatriates from African countries have succeeded in business in Guangzhou, Chinese policies are making it more difficult for them, and other foreigners, to continue the lives they’ve made for themselves in China.

African countries are being courted by Chinese officials who insist, “China wants to engage every African country as an equal.” However, that sentiment doesn’t seem to be afforded to the residents of these countries.

Last year, the Chinese central government passed the Exit-Entry Administration Law that now requires expats to return to their home nations to renew their visas instead of doing so at intermediary destinations like Hong Kong. Jenni Marsh from the South China Morning Post recently detailed how this policy is impacting the African expat community in Guangzhou. While many people Marsh interviewed plan to return to their home countries in Africa, many others are resolved to carve out a long-term existence in Guangzhou.

The African community has galvanized and fought for longer visa extensions by proving how much they have given back to their newly-adopted city. As a result, visas procured by members of the African community can range from around three months to three years, depending upon the individual’s personal circumstances. And yet, a double standard remains as a Guinean trader named Cellou complained, “If my [Chinese] wife stays in Guinea she can get a Guinea passport.”

africantown guangzhou african africa chineseEven before the Exit-Entry Administration Law was passed last year, the African community in Guangzhou was already under pressure with the Guangdong Act of 2011. The Act rewards people who snitch on those who overstay their visas, forbids illegal immigrants to work or study, and gives any police officer the authority to stop foreigners to verify their passports. A Ugandan told Lan Shanshan, a research assistant professor at Baptist University:

“A visa is not a 100 per cent guarantee here. When police stop you, if you do not look like a pleasant person to them, they may draw the line on your visa and cancel it. They say, ‘China gives, China takes.’”

While staying in China may be difficult for African expats, they have still found a way to improve their odds: by marrying a Chinese wife. Linessa Lin Dan, a PhD student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said many African expats will marry a Chinese wife for business reasons.

“Opening a shop is very difficult for foreigners,” she says. “You need a Chinese passport or the landlord will ask for a bribe. A Chinese wife can speak to suppliers. It’s useful to have a Chinese partner.

“Many Chinese women want to marry Africans because they are from poor rural areas, often Hunan or Hubei provinces. Marrying a foreigner is a way to upgrade their social status, because the Africans have money.”

This sentiment is seconded by Pat Chukwuonye Chike:

“That is my sacrifice,” says the married father-of-two. “My wife cannot cook. My mother-in-law helps look after the children, and she is poisoning them against Africa. She’s an old woman, she knows the game she’s playing. There is crisis everywhere–terrorists were in Guangzhou last week–it is a sin to make my children scared of Nigeria.”

But perhaps the biggest problem facing the African community of Guangzhou is how to deal with mixed-race children. These kids are born predominantly to an African father and a Chinese mother and are caught between cultures. Chinese immigration policies threaten to separate those families.

While the one-child policy does not include foreigners, Africans are subject to the policy even though they do not qualify for Chinese citizenship. Furthermore, these mixed-race children risk being marginalized by a classification system that does not recognize “mixed-race” as an option.

Even the local media treatment has been mixed:

Lan Shanshan, a research assistant professor at Baptist University, claims there is a media edict on the mainland to report favourably on Africans in China, hence the state-owned newspaper Guangming Daily’s three-part special titled “Friends From Africa, How are You Doing in Guangzhou?”, in 2012.

africantown guangzhou african africa chineseAnd yet, we’ve seen pictorials by the People’s Daily that insinuate an unidentified African person to be an illegal immigrant, while news reports flat out finger the African community as the source of blame for the drug woes currently plaguing China.

Regardless, it is becoming more difficult everyday for an African expat to stay in China.

Photo:, the  Nanfang


China Executes Two Foreigners for Drug Trafficking in Guangzhou

Posted: 07/3/2014 1:22 pm

Two people from Uganda were executed in Guangzhou on June 25 after being convicted of drug trafficking. The remains of two are still in China as officials wait for the families to pay for the cost of transport, reports New Vision.

At the time of arrest, Omer Ddamulira and Andrew Ham Ngobi were carrying 28 kg and 15 kg of cocaine, respectively, say sources at the Uganda mission in Beijing. The cocaine they were carrying was worth $2.6 million.

Charles Wagidoso, Uganda’s ambassador to China, said efforts were being made to return the remains of the two men, both of whom were cremated. The Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Ugandan government does not pay for the transportation of Ugandans who die abroad.

Ministry spokesperson Fred Opolot explained said, “Financially it would be an extremely heavy burden,” but expressed optimism that bilateral agreements between China and Uganda will provide for the transfer of prisoners between the two countries, even for convicted drug traffickers and those who have died.

Ngobi’s wife, Marriam Nabbanja, spent months not knowing her husband had been arrested. She was finally told of her husband’s fate by Interpol, but remains unconvinced of Ngobi’s guilt. She said he was a trouble-free man for three years, adding, “Why didn’t they arrest him at the airport when he was entering if indeed he had cocaine?”

Photo: Wikipedia Commons


Drug Crimes By Foreigners in China Up 17%, Guangdong A Particular Problem

Posted: 06/26/2014 2:18 pm

Foreigners are committing more drug crimes in China, and it appears Guangdong is one of their favorite spots to operate. There has been a 17% increase in drug-related crimes by foreigners across the country in the past year, with police focusing on Guangdong as a particular problem, reported China Daily.

Liu Yuejin, director of the narcotics control bureau for the Ministry of Public Security, described the drug problem:

“Due to high market demand, the desire for profits, and loose management, foreign drug gangs are active in southern China, including Guangdong and Yunnan provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region,”

READ: Drug Sting At Hotel in Guangzhou Nets 10 Foreigners

There were 1,491 drug-related crimes involving foreigners last year in China, a year-on-year increase of 15.4%. This lead to the arrests of 1,963 foreign drug suspects, an increase of 17.3% from the year before.

Liu said the majority of foreign suspects are of African origin, and they tend to smuggle heroin from the Golden Crescent (consisting of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan) or marijuana and cocaine from Africa and South America.

Cui Qingchao, deputy director of the Guangzhou customs anti-smuggling department, said foreign traffickers are able to cheaply purchase methamphetamine in the Guangdong cities of Lufeng and Jieyang.

READ: Nigerian Man Caught Using Chinese Girlfriend to
Smuggle Drugs Out of Guangdong

Cui said that some African drug suspects serve as “agents” for Pakistani drug lords. Cui goes on to say,

“After obtaining drugs from these drug lords, they usually hire foreign traffickers who hide the drugs in their bodies or luggage. They take the drugs to Beijing and Shanghai or send them to Guangdong and other provinces through express mail services.”

Despite language barriers and a predisposition to commit violence posed by these foreigners, Liu said authorities will increase supervision of foreign residents, especially in Guangdong.


Photos: Georgia Expunge


Nigerian Businessman On Mission To Get Consulate in Guangzhou

Posted: 06/20/2014 11:35 am

Protestors outside a Nigerian consulate


China has courted controversy with its growing relations with many African countries by being accused of exploiting its many resources and people. While this may result in conflicting feelings among the sizable African expat community in Guangzhou, Festus Uzoma Mbisiogu is more determined than ever to get a new Nigerian consulate built in the city to serve the country’s growing diaspora.

Mbisiogu is the Coordinator of the Good Governance Initiative and CEO of Blue Diamond Logistics (China), and he believes having a local consulate in Guangzhou is necessary to take away the need to travel to Beijing for consular services. Furthermore, it is simply good for business.

Mbisiogu asserts that “Nigerian businessmen in China are the backbone of the nation’s foreign policy with China,” reports All Africa.

To emphasize this importance, Mbisiogu makes the following claim:

Nigerian businessmen in China contribute over 70% of China’s growing economy.

Now, that’s a backbone; but we think Mbigiogu just got his numbers backwards. According to China Daily, trade between Nigeria and China nearly topped US$13 billion in 2013, with 70% of Nigeria’s development headed by investment from China.

And yet, Mbisiogu hasn’t forgotten about the Nigerian expat community that lives in Guangzhou:

While noting that Nigerians in China almost lost touch (with) inherent gains of the growing Sino-Nigeria relations, the business mogul, who also owns one of the largest manufacturing companies in Nigeria, implored all to leverage on the high volume of business transactions between China and Africa, particularly Nigeria, and ensure continuous business prospects.

There is no firm number of Africans in Guangzhou, but at least 50,000 of them call the city home.


Photo: NY Post


China Insider: Why a Racist Quote in People’s Daily Online Isn’t Racist At All

Posted: 04/25/2014 8:35 pm

africantown guangzhou african africa chinese

A quote given in a pictorial seen on the People’s Daily Online is not racist at all.

While a picture can tell a thousand words, we’ll let the actual written words speak for themselves in this case:

An African young man uses the text scanner at a shop and warily looks around. His frightened look reveals his identity of a new comer, perhaps without legal documents.

Yeah, that seems to be unfairly judging a person you don’t know anything about with a biased preconception. But, this caption isn’t racist because we’re not getting the full picture here: the true way to enjoy this pictorial is not by the pictures, but through the photographer.

The photo essay is about the African community that resides in Guangzhou. Estimated to have originated in 2002, “Africatown” was the coalescence of a number of Africa traders that continually grew year by year. However, the growth of Guangzhou’s Africatown seems to rely upon the uneasy truce made between the African and Chinese communities which is founded upon the mutual ignoring of each other’s existence.

Well, that didn’t sit well with Li Dong. Two years ago, Li Dong quit his job and decided to fully document the African community in Guangzhou through photography.

But though we have Li’s many photographs of the African community, we really aren’t any closer to understanding them—not by the People’s Online pictorial and it’s rather direct-yet-ambiguous statement. Instead, we need the proper context to relate with—and for that, we have Li Dong himself.africantown guangzhou african africa chinese

The full story about the African community photographs broke back on April 10, and it did it by telling us about Li Dong: his life, his history, his accolades. The introduction to the story starts off grandly like this:

Man of academics from a famous school, executive of a company, Entrepreneur… Li Dong is a man with many proud labels.

And then majestically reveals the purpose:

Within the two years of observing and living on Baohaozhi Street, he has become the African’s neighbor; from the beginning when people were wary [of his presence] up until the present when he is fully understood, he has slowly used his camera lens to tell the unknown stories of life and struggle of these people from another country.

And then it goes on to tell everything about Li. We are told of Li’s disgrace of losing face as a child when he saw the way Chinese would act around foreigners, and then Li explains how his work is required understanding to achieve a cultural advantage:

“Before, (Chinese) would need to take up the whole day to decide which bottle of mineral water to purchase when outside the country, but now an increasing number of Chinese are (more comfortable) with buying things when abroad. Before, (we Chinese) were wild for foreign trinkets; now, an increasing number of foreigners are instead coming to China to study and get rich…”

Yes, we need to know the all the motivations why someone would do something like this. We need to know that the person doing this is a person of high standing and privilege, after which we can extend our respect to the things he stands for by proxy. Yes, we need read the background first in order to give the proper respect, and then understand later.

The story of the African community in China is in fact Li’s story of why he was compelled to quit his job and devote an entire two years of his life to this project when a weekend wouldn’t do. We don’t need a pictorial telling the stories about the African community in Guangzhou because the real story we need to hear is the one that’s trying to tell it.

And let’s be fair to that quote by the People’s Daily Online: they did say “perhaps”.

Photos: People’s Daily Online


Xiaobeilu: Photographic project on Africans in Guangzhou

Posted: 01/18/2014 7:00 am

American photographer and filmmaker Daniel Traub, who has been doing photography projects on China since 1998, has completed a project titled Xiaobeilu on Guangzhou’s African community. Half-Chinese, Traub is fluent in Mandarin and in 2010 approached a Chinese migrant worker named Wu Yongfu about exhibiting some of the portrait photos of African migrants he had been taking and selling on a footbridge in Xiaobeilu. Wu agreed and the portfolio contains both his images and Traub’s originals.

Here is a documentary about the project, presented by Traub himself and uploaded by last week.

Traub says on his own website that the project offers insight into several vital issues: China’s growing influence in Africa, immigration from the developing world into China and race relations between China and Africa.

Below are some of the images snapped by Wu and Traub on the footbridge.


Nigerian launches social network serving Africans based in Guangzhou

Posted: 05/22/2012 10:43 am

Guangzhou is one of the most diverse cities in China.  While it has its fair share of Caucasian expatriates, it is also home to the largest black community in Asia and it’s not uncommon (in fact, it’s quite common) to see women in full burkas.

The city has a long history of being open to the outside world, even moreso than either Beijing or Shanghai.  As a city far from China’s political centre, it’s a bit more freewheeling and loose.

The African community here has been estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000, but regardless of the figure their impact on the city has been immense.  We have told you before that airlines from Africa are stepping up direct flights between the continent and Guangzhou, while political and economic ties between the two regions strengthen further. Parts of Baiyun and Yuexiu districts have been renamed as “Chocolate City“. So what are the Africans doing here?  Many are involved in textiles and export products back to their home countries.  But one man has taken a different path.  Spartan Arinze was recently profiled by Public Radio International because he has launched a social networking site aimed at Africans living in China.

Arinze arrived in Guangzhou from Nigeria 10 years ago in search of the Chinese equivalent of the “American dream”.  He launched his social networking site, Gbooza!, after being inspired by reading the Huffington Post.  He says knew he wanted to do something to serve the legions of Africans in Guangzhou, and the many others spread out throughout China:

The site is part social network, part news aggregator and all focused on the Nigerian community in China.

“I cannot create a news website for Americans,” Arinze said. “I am Nigerian so I have to create something for my people. And being in China here, I want to create something that will benefit my people and benefit China. We feature Chinese news and we feature events of Nigerians in China too.

Gbooza is no Facebook yet. The site has about 2,000 members and gets around 5,000 pageviews a day. But Arinze is still dreaming big. His next plan: making the number one social news network in Africa.

Arinze called the decision to launch a social network the “biggest risk of my life”.

While Arinze is based in Guangzhou, the site is much more global in nature.  It features an Events section, a trading corner, and plenty of news related to Africa (with a particular penchant for grizzly crime stories).  News can be filtered by continent.

Arinze says he has big plans for Gbooza!

The site has about 2,000 members and gets around 5000 page views a day. But Arinze is still dreaming big. His next plan: making the number one social news network in Africa.

You can check out the website here.


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