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Chinese official: claims of racial targeting are ‘reasonable concerns’ | World news

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A senior Chinese official has acknowledged accusations of authorities discriminating against black people in the city of Guangzhou as “reasonable concerns”.

Amid an increased focus on people with coronavirus arriving in mainland China from overseas, health authorities in Guangzhou have been accused of racially targeting Africans, including with forced evictions, repeated testing for Covid-19 without providing the result, and refusing service or business.

The south-eastern city is known for its African community but also has a troubled history of discrimination, and the wave of allegations – accompanied by videos and photographs on social media – have drawn strong rebuke from the international community.

Tony Mathias, an exchange student from Uganda, told Agence France-Presse he was forced from his apartment.

“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,” he said.

Thiam, an exchange student from Guinea, said: “All the people I’ve seen tested are Africans. Chinese are walking around freely but if you’re black you can’t go out.”

On Saturday a group of African ambassadors in Beijing wrote to the state councillor, Wang Yi, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, “immediately demand[ing] the cessation of forceful testing, quarantine, and other inhuman treatments meted out to Africans”.

Ghana MFA
(@GhanaMFA)

Urgent Notice. Kindly Share. pic.twitter.com/HpcnRYsBaC


April 11, 2020

Moussa Faki Mahamat
(@AUC_MoussaFaki)

My Office invited the Chinese Amb to the AU,Mr Liu Yuxi, to express our extreme concern at allegations of maltreatment of Africans in #Guangzhou+called for immediate remedial measures in line with our excellent relations.The African Grp in #Beijing is also engaging with the govt pic.twitter.com/NEBStdOCeK


April 11, 2020

The foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said on Sunday the department was staying in close communication with Guangdong authorities and would “continue responding to the African side’s reasonable concerns and legitimate appeals”.

In a lengthy statement, Zhao said the government had “zero tolerance for discrimination” and said the Guangdong authorities were “working promptly to improve their working method”. He did not reference the ambassadors’ letter.

In text messages seen by the Guardian, a purported Guangzhou resident said they and seven other Africans in their building were taken to a hotel by police. “They said they will do some test after the quarantine,” the message said.

“I have explained to them, I have not left China since October of last year and I have already done my Covid-19 test … which I brought to the police station yesterday for registration.

“I did everything correctly. Now I seriously don’t understand why I’m here at this hotel and they are asking me to pay.”


A Canadian man said he was “mandated to stay indoors because I am black”.

On Sunday the US state department accused the Chinese officials of “xenophobia” towards Africans, and said the abuse and mistreatment showed how “hollow” the China-Africa partnership was.

The US consul general in Guangzhou has advised African-Americans or those who Chinese officials might suspect of having contact with African nationals to avoid the area “until further notice”.

It said the “escalating scrutiny of foreign nationals”, including mandatory testing and quarantine, was occurring “regardless of recent travel history or previous quarantine completion”.

“Without advance warning, officials might require such individuals to submit to a Covid-19 test and undergo 14 days of supervised quarantine at their own expense,” the consulate warned.

Black Livity China
(@BlackLivityCN)

The U.S. embassy has issued an alert amidst reports that Black Americans are being affected by anti-African racism in Guangzhou pic.twitter.com/JNk68IGkiY


April 12, 2020

Despite the acknowledgement from the foreign ministry spokesman, responses from Chinese officials over the weekend have been mixed.

The Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe dismissed the accusations, saying foreigners and Chinese people were treated equally and it was “harmful to sensationalise incidents”.

And in an article on Saturday on China’s English-language state media outlet, the Global Times, the accusations were labelled “a western trap to stir enmity”.

“Chinese analysts said that twisted reports were stoking a long-existing controversy over Africans in Guangzhou to a new high, and urged the local governments to be more transparent and to respond to controversies in a timelier manner to avoid the issue being exploited by the west to damage China-Africa relations,” it said.

The director of the foreign ministry information department, Hua Chunying, said the China-Africa friendship would “never be shaken by [a] wedge-driving attempt”, and asked the US state department to explain the documented acts of racism against Asian Americans.

Hua Chunying 华春莹
(@SpokespersonCHN)

The Chinese government is in close communication with our African brothers to ensure proper handling of the individual case. China-African friendship will never be shaken by wedge-driving attempt.


April 12, 2020

Eric Olander, the managing editor of The China Africa Project website and podcast, said China was struggling to respond to the crisis because the usual tactics of dismissing allegations as “rumours” do not hold up in the face of video and photographic evidence on social media.

“Furthermore, the accusation that western media is behind this also isn’t gaining much traction, because the vast majority of the news coverage about the crisis is taking place in Africa, and not in the US or Europe,” Olander said.

“The problem here is that the Chinese are using a technocratic approach to respond to a hugely emotional issue for Africans who feel betrayed and disrespected by the sight of so many migrants being forced to sleep on the streets and endure maltreatment by landlords and local authorities.”



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Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Sunday

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The latest:

  • Brazil’s coronavirus death toll surpasses 100,000.
  • India records nearly 64,000 new cases in the past 24 hours.
  • More than 2,700 active cases in Australia’s Victoria state have no known source.
  • U.K. records more than 1,000 new infections for 1st time since late June.

The United States has now recorded more than five million cases of COVID-19, with more than 162,000 deaths, since identifying its first confirmed case of the new respiratory illness in January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health officials believe the actual number is perhaps 10 times higher, or closer to 50 million, given testing limitations and the fact that as many as 40 per cent of all those who are infected have no symptoms.

New cases of infection in the U.S. caused by the novel coronavirus run at about 54,000 a day — and while that’s down from a peak of well over 70,000 last month, cases are rising in nearly 20 states.

Figures compiled this week show that five states — California, Texas, Florida, New York and Georgia — account for more than 40 per cent of infections.

A sign urging people to practice social distancing is seen outside a bar during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D., on Sunday. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed executive actions bypassing Congress to defer payroll taxes for some Americans and extend unemployment benefits after talks on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.

Trump accused Democrats of loading up their rescue bill with priorities unrelated to the coronavirus. “We’ve had it,” he said Saturday at a news conference at his country club in Bedminster, N.J.

Trump said the payroll tax cut would apply to those earning less than $100,000 a year. Extra aid for the unemployed will total $400 a week, a cut from the $600 that just expired.

He also signed a memorandum holding off student loan payments and an executive order extending the freeze on evictions.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 119,451 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 103,728 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,017.

Ontario reported its sixth-straight day of fewer than 100 new cases of COVID-19. There were 70 new cases of the novel coronavirus Saturday and one virus-related death.

In Quebec, the government plans to have students return to classrooms at the end of the month, but some parents want schools to offer an option for online learning.

People wearing face masks attend a mass remember the victims of the explosion in Beirut on Sunday in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba reported 35 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 182 — the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan reported 15 new cases, Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new cases over the weekend, and Nova Scotia hasn’t seen a new case in a week. Both N.L. and N.S. have one active case each.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases tops 19.7 million and more than 728,000 people have died. The United States has had the most cases, with more than 5 million, followed by Brazil with more than 3 million and India with more than 2.1 million.

In Europe, Greek authorities have announced a record daily number of 203 new coronavirus cases. Beginning Monday and ending Aug. 31, everyone must wear a mask in all retail places, as well as all modes of transport other than private cars, the government has decided. People attending church must also do so, though priests are not required to wear masks in church.

Britain recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections in a day for the first time since late June. Britain has seen a gradual rise in coronavirus infections since it began lifting lockdown restrictions in mid-June. The government has put the next stage of reopening, which had been due to take effect Aug. 1, on hold for at least two weeks.

A cyclist carrying an ad displaying advice on how to slow the spread COVID-19 rides through the streets of Halifax, U.K., on Sunday. (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

In Asia-Pacific, the premier of Australia’s Victoria state said more than 2,700 active cases have no known source and remain the primary concern of health authorities. Premier Daniel Andrews said confirmed cases also include almost 1,000 health-care workers. The city of Melbourne has been under tough restrictions since a week ago, including an overnight curfew and mandatory wearing of masks, but officials won’t see the results of their efforts for another one to two weeks.

The Indian Medical Association said 196 doctors have died of COVID-19 so far and, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requested adequate care for physicians and their families. The Health Ministry on Sunday recorded nearly 64,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours for a total of 2,153,010. At least 628,747 patients are still undergoing treatment. India also recorded 861 fatalities, driving the death toll to 43,379.

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment performs a COVID-19 test on a person in New Delhi on Sunday. (Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images)

In the Americas, Brazil has surpassed a grim milestone — 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. And five months after the first reported case, the country is showing no signs of crushing the disease.

The country of 210 million people has been reporting an average of more than 1,000 daily deaths from the pandemic since late May, and 905 were recorded in the latest 24-hour period to put Brazil above 100,000. The Health Ministry also said there have been a total of 3,012,412 confirmed infections. The totals are second only to the United States. And experts believe both numbers are severe undercounts due to insufficient testing.

The Archbishop of the City of Rio de Janeiro Dom Orani Joao Tempesta wearing a mask during a mass to honour victims COVID-19 at the Christ the Redeemer statue on Sunday. (Andre Coelho/Getty Images)

In Africa, South Africa’s number of confirmed coronavirus deaths has surpassed 10,000. The Health Department said the country with the world’s fifth-largest caseload now has 553,188 cases and 10,210 deaths.

South Africa makes up more than half the infections on the African continent, where the total number of cases this past week surpassed one million. Experts say the actual number of cases is several times that amount, given the shortage of testing materials and people can have the virus without symptoms.



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Virtual Preparation Allows Miss Nicaragua Amid Pandemic | World News

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — For four months, everything was virtual: the modeling and speech classes, the make-up courses and the emotional support session via videoconference. And when eight contestants vying to be Miss Nicaragua did finally start in-person practices, they did so with masks covering their faces.

“We managed to organize the event under the pandemic with masks, social distancing and little money, (but) with talent and creativity,” said Karen Celebertti, who has been running the pageant for two decades in Nicaragua.

On Saturday night, 23-year-old Ana Marcelo, an agroindustrial engineer from Estelí, was crowned Miss Nicaragua in front of a limited audience (two people per contestant spaced safely) plus a production crew of 85. The masks were off the contestants, but the judges wore them and were spaced at a safe distance.

There were portable handwashing stations and doctors taking temperatures.

Celebertti, herself a former local beauty queen, said they had to “reinvent” themselves to pull it off. The novel coronavirus arrived in March just days after they had selected the contestants. It was delayed from May to August to develop protocols that would allow them to compete safely.

“We had trials and classes through Zoom, supervised by me from home,” Celebertti said. “The girls had a speech coach, an image consultant and stylists online who taught them how to do their hair and put on makeup alone. There was no other option.”

In July, they had their first in-person practices, walks down the runway wearing masks. “Each session was supervised by doctors and no one got infected,” she said.

Unlike the massive religious and sporting events allowed and even promoted by the government during the pandemic, the pageant decided to do without the usual boisterous audience cheering their support for the women.

“Some criticized me for doing this event, but we were very careful to be able to do it,” Celebertti said. “The truth is that the people need to see some good news, be entertained.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Lebanon information minister quits in first cabinet resignation | Beirut explosion

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Lebanon’s information minister, Manal Abdel Samad, has quit in the first government resignation since an explosion in the port of Beirut killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

“After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government,” she said on Sunday in a statement , apologising to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The head of Lebanon’s Maronite church called on the entire government to step down over the explosion, widely seen as proof of the rot at the core of the state.

Lebanese protesters enraged by the blast vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

The Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi joined the chorus of people pressing the prime minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet to step down over the explosion which he said could be “described as a crime against humanity”.

“It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here, or a minister to resign there,” Rai said in a Sunday sermon. “It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”

The Lebanese Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi
The Lebanese Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi asked the cabinet to step down. Photograph: Reuters

He echoed calls by Diab for early parliamentary polls – a long-standing demand of a protest movement that began in October, asking for the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt. At least six lawmakers have quit since the explosion.

The Maronite patriarch also joined world leaders, international organisations and the Lebanese public in pressing for an international inquiry into the explosion, which, authorities say, was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse where a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years.

The Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, rejected calls on Friday for an international investigation which, he said, would “dilute the truth”.

Under pressure from the public and foreign partners who are exasperated by the Lebanese leadership’s inability to enact reforms, Diab’s government is looking increasingly unstable.

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