A month after the clash between Nigerians and the police in Canton (see my 17 July post), the cover story of the curent (17 August) China Newsweek (中国新闻周刊, no relation to Newsweek) is entitled “Does China need an immigration bureau?” Of the series of articles, three are about the background of the clash in Canton. Although it notes that Africans are blamed by locals and police for a rise in crime and drug use, the tone of the articles is generally sympathetic or neutral; the authors talk about stereotypes on both sides.
The articles say that Africans increasingly avoid going out in order not to run into police checks. But one case the authors describe of a man who, like the one who died, jumped out of the window to avoid being caught, was not deported, his earnings were not confiscated, and his medical treatment was paid by the police.
The report says that there are officially 20 thousand African residents in Canton, but that many Africans’ visas and even passports have expired. Some African interviewees say that this is not a crime, and it seems that while the city authorities have since 2005 conducted several campaigns to ferret out and deport such people, they do not treat it as quite serious a crime as their European or American counterparts do. In fact, the protest by African traders in front of the local police precinct had to do with indignation over their lack of legal papers, suggesting that these “illegals” have not been deprived of their voice to the same extent as in Europe.
Researchers and police officials interviewed (in private capacity, as officially police refused to comment on the topic) by the authors offer views that are strikingly similar to those about Chinese traders in Europe: they are illegal, they all look alike, they spread diseases (although AIDS is particularly associated with Africans). But the reporting is less strident than mainstream European media tend to be, and at least partly along the lines of “Chinese people need to learn to live with foreigners.”