The Federal Government on Tuesday said that poor communication between the Chinese authorities and African consulates in Guangzhou, China, was responsible for the tensions that arose concerning the alleged maltreatment of Nigerians.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed this while briefing journalists in Abuja in company with the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian.
Mr Onyeama said the lack of communication made a lot of Nigerians and Africans to misunderstand what was happening in China.
The minister said that if there was effective communication, African consulates would have assisted the Chinese authorities in the action it was taking.
Last week, several videos were circulated on social media showing Chinese authorities harassing Africans, including Nigerians, throwing them out of their homes and forcing them to sleep on the streets of Guangzhou, in Guandong Province of China.
The videos drew a hashtag #ChinaMust Explain as Nigerians on social media prevailed on the government, as well as the foreign affairs ministry, to intervene.
Referring to the videos, Mr Onyeama explained that the Chinese authorities were trying to contain some Africans including a Nigerian restaurant owner, who came into China and tested positive for the virus.
“And so, automatically demanded and insisted that they all be quarantined, with nobody allowed to come out in 14 days and if anybody came out from that quarantine, that they should not be allowed in if it was a hotel, back into that hotel or that residence.
“So, they put in very, very strict measure to try to contain this outbreak which to them at that time, clearly seemed to have been within that community. And so, they put in place, these very strict measures.
“Now, it was misinterpreted it appeared, by some of the Nigerians and Africans who could not understand why it seemed to be selective and targeting only themselves,” Mr Onyeama said.
Mr Onyeama further said after seeing the new video which had a different narrative, he immediately alerted the Nigerian Embassy and officials in Guangzhou at the consulate, particularly the acting consul-general.
He added that the consulate confirmed that that narrative was true, that the Chinese authorities were trying to quarantine a set of Africans who came into China and tested positive.
“But what our officials in China made clear was that the communication could and should have been better.
”If the authorities in Guangzhou had informed the African Consulates in Guangzhou that this was the situation and this were the measures they were putting in place, it could have become a joint effort.
“That mutual suspicion would not be there. That was not done and it led to counter-narrative and it exacerbated the situation,” he said.
Mr Onyeama, however, disclosed that both the Nigerian and Chinese authorities were working closely to resolve the issue.
He stressed that the Nigerian government took very seriously the issue of the human rights and wellbeing of Nigerians anywhere and everywhere in the world.
He said wherever there might be any issues in that regard, the Nigerian Government considered it an absolute obligation to intervene to ensure the rights and dignity of Nigerians are protected anywhere in the world.
In his remarks, Mr Pingjian said the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China took note of the seriousness which the minister and the Nigerian government placed on the issues raised by Nigerians in China.
Mr Pingjian added that China respected and admired the working cooperation between China and Nigeria, saying that China would never forget the invaluable support it received from Nigeria during the most challenging stage in the fight against COVID-19 in China.
“The minister, I should say, has said all that. We are totally on the same page,” Mr Pingjian said.
The Chinese envoy further said nothing had changed in China’s policy of friendship toward Africa, adding that China cherished its strategic partnership with Nigeria.
He added that Guangzhou was only fighting COVID-19 and not any Nigerian, African, foreign nationals or even Chinese.