Africans in southern China's largest city say they have become targets of suspicion and subjected to forced evictions, arbitrary quarantines and mass coronavirus testing as the country steps up its fight against imported infections.
It started after China discovered the recent cluster of coronavirus cases came from the Nigerian community of Guangzhou where 16 Africans were identified positive, reports MSN.
Among them, five had broken the rule of mandatory quarantine and went to restaurants and public places. As a result, nearly 2,000 people they came into contact with had to be tested for Covid-19 or undergo quarantine, Chinese state media said.
That is why, this community has become the reason of wrath for the majority Chinese.
Several Africans told AFP they had been forcibly evicted from their homes and turned away by hotels.
"I've been sleeping under the bridge for four days with no food to eat... I cannot buy food anywhere, no shops or restaurants will serve me," said Tony Mathias, an exchange student from Uganda who was forced from his apartment on Monday. "We're like beggars on the street," the 24-year-old said.
Mathias added that police had given him no information about testing or quarantine but instead told him "to go to another city".
Other Africans said the community had been subject to mass Covid-19 testing even though many had not left China recently, and placed under arbitrary quarantine at home or in hotels.
Thiam, an exchange student from Guinea, said police ordered him to stay home on Tuesday even after he tested negative for Covid-19 and told officers he had not left China in almost four years.
He believes the measures are specifically and unfairly targeting Africans.
"All the people I've seen tested are Africans. Chinese are walking around freely but if you're black you can't go out," he said.
The US State Department on Saturday issued an alert advising African Americans, or those with potential contact with African nationals, to avoid Guangzhou.
The infections in Guangzhou have sparked a torrent of abuse online, with many Chinese internet users posting racist comments and calling for all Africans to be deported. Last week a controversial cartoon depicting foreigners as different types of trash to be sorted through went viral on social media.
"There's just this crazy fear that anybody who's African might have been in contact with somebody who was sick," said David, a Canadian living in Guangzhou.
China's foreign ministry acknowledged this week that there had been some "misunderstandings" with the African community.
"I want to emphasise that the Chinese government treats all foreigners in China equally," said spokesman Zhao Lijian on Thursday, urging local officials to "improve their working mechanisms".
The complaints in Guangzhou contrast with a welcome reception to Chinese efforts in battling the coronavirus across the African continent, where Beijing this week donated medical supplies to 18 countries.