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Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian, addresses the maltreatment of some Nigerians in Guangzhou and other issues in this interview with ADELANI ADEPEGBA

In what way has COVID-19 impacted Sino-Nigerian relations?

Hardship reveals true friendship. China will always remember the invaluable support it received from the government and good people of Nigeria, including those Nigerian brothers and sisters who chose to stay in China, at the most demanding stage of its outbreak response. The Chinese are a grateful people. As a Chinese saying goes, “give a plum in return for a peach.” Helping Nigeria at the latter’s request is one way to reciprocate its kindness and friendship. It is also in line with international humanitarianism and vision advocated by President Xi Jinping of building a community with a shared future for mankind. China would never stand by and leave its friends in difficulty. The help China offers does not involve any selfish interest. We have full confidence in Nigeria’s determination, capacity, and capability to defeat the virus ultimately. Despite the daunting task of epidemic control remaining at home, China firmly supports Nigeria’s fight against the outbreak and stands ready to assist, if needed, to the best of its ability. China will continue to prove itself as a good friend, partner, and brother of Nigeria through concrete actions. This joint battle against the COVID-19 pandemic will surely strengthen trust and cooperation between China and Nigeria.

Tell us the circumstances surrounding the reported eviction of Nigerians from their apartments and hotels in Guangzhou.

All foreign nationals are treated equally in China. We reject any differential treatment, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination. Nothing whatsoever changed  China’s policy of friendship towards Africa. China cherishes her strategic partnership with Nigeria. Countries all over the world are taking measures to contain the pandemic. In China, our most urgent task is to prevent imported cases and domestic resurgence. To meet this goal, we need understanding, support and cooperation from both Chinese and foreign nationals in China. In the meantime, we pay high attention to the occasional incidents and misunderstandings in this process. We urge relevant authorities to improve working methods and hope all foreigners in China will strictly observe local anti-epidemic regulations, and cooperate with and support us in fighting the virus. Viruses do not respect borders, nor do epidemics discriminate between races. As a responsible government, Guangzhou has to safeguard the lives and health of Nigerians and every other resident there. The Guangzhou authorities keep briefing the Nigerian Consulate-General on the situation of epidemic prevention and control. Unity and cooperation are our most potent weapon to defeat the virus; together, we will achieve the final victory.

What steps are being taken to address the allegations of racism and stigmatisation levelled by the affected Nigerians against Guangdong Province officials?

Guangzhou is fighting against the COVID-19, not any Nigerian, not any African, not any foreign national, not any Chinese. For a detailed explanation, please refer to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s remarks on Guangdong’s anti-epidemic measures concerning African citizens in China and the open letter, “One world, one fight in solidarity we stand for the building of a community of common health for mankind” issued on April 18 by the Foreign Affairs Office of Guangdong Province.

The Guangdong authorities attach great importance to some African countries’ concerns and are working promptly to improve their working method. The measures include: to provide health management services without differentiation, to designate hotels for the accommodation of foreigners required to undergo medical observation and adopt price adjustment for those in financial difficulties; to set up effective communication mechanism with foreign consulates-general in Guangzhou; and to reject all racist and discriminatory remarks. The Chinese people always see African people as partners and brothers through thick and thin. China-Africa friendship is unbreakable as it is deeply rooted in the land. African friends can count on getting fair, just, cordial and friendly reception in China. As far as I know, there is now not a single outstanding complaint from Nigerians in Guangzhou. During the past two weeks, altogether, 11 complaints were registered and resolved immediately. All of them were caused by a lack of communication or misunderstanding. The Embassy will stay in close communication with Beijing and the Guangdong authorities and continue responding to the Nigerian side’s reasonable concerns and legitimate appeals.

What assistance are you rendering for the evacuation of the affected Nigerians?

The communication channel between China and Nigeria is very smooth.

What form of assistance is the People’s Republic rendering to Nigerians in Wuhan, where the coronavirus initially broke out?

During the 76-day lockdown in Wuhan, 79 Nigerian brothers and sisters, including 50 students, were there. No one got infected and I heard no complaints from them. Their full cooperation on the implementation of the most stringent measures to fight COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan is highly appreciated. As one Nigerian student said, “We are foreigners, not strangers.” We Chinese are touched by their solidarity and cooperation.

How soon would the Nigerian nationals be able to leave Wuhan?

China on April 8 lifted outbound travel restrictions on Wuhan, ending a lockdown that sealed off around 10 million people from the rest of the world for 76 days since January 23. The easing of travel restrictions came after new infections have been drastically reduced across China, marking a milestone in our fight against COVID-19 while giving confidence to a world still grappling to contain the virus’ ferocious spread.

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