A South African teacher who lives in Shunde, Foshan, in the Guangdong province of China, says her family lives in constant fear of being subjected to forced quarantine and multiple Covid-19 tests.
The primary school teacher, whose name is known to News24, lives with her husband, also a middle school teacher. She said they returned to Foshan on 16 March from their hometown, George, to resume their duties after being on holiday.
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Jessica* says, upon their arrival in the province, they were quarantined for two weeks, with cameras installed outside their residence to ensure they did not leave. After testing for the virus on 25 March, their results returned negative. They finished their quarantine period on 30 March.
But what came after that was shocking for the 40-year-old. She said they started noticing strange behaviour towards foreigners. As if that was not enough, she said on 9 April they then received a call from her school’s HR department instructing the couple to pack their bags and go to the police station, because they were going to be taken to a hotel for quarantine.
When Jessica questioned why they were returning to quarantine after testing negative, she said she was told: “We don’t know. The government said so.”
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When they arrived at the hotel, Jessica said they noticed that it was only people from Africa who were there.
“[There was] a guy from Morocco, a lady who’s got dual citizenship with Namibia and South Africa, another lady was from the Eastern Cape. And we were just like, where are other people? It is only people from Africa.
“Even to this day, there has been no official letter and explanation as to why we had to go in. We packed because they also said if we refuse to come, the police would come to our house and arrest us and take us there,” Jessica said.
Her two friends from Pretoria who arrived on 4 and 5 March were also subjected to the treatment.
She said that, while on the way to the hotel, they then heard for the first time that Africans were being subjected to forced testing, random isolation and evictions in Guangzhou, which is about a two-hour drive from their province.
‘You will see mothers literally taking their kids out of the way’
“We went into the hotel and got tested again for the virus, and two days ago we got tested again. So we have been tested three times now for the virus. Every time the results are negative and they told us yesterday that we could leave. We are at home right now in self-isolation.”
Chinese Consul General to South Africa Tang Zhongdong has denied allegations that Africans in China were mistreated in Guangzhou, News24 reported.
He was speaking at a handover ceremony with Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku on Tuesday, where 30 000 units of personal protective equipment (PPE) were donated.
He was responding to the widespread media coverage of what was happening to Africans in China.
But Jessica said the denial was far from the truth, based on the her first-hand experience along with her African friends who are teaching in the country. She said there was continued “blatant discrimination” against them.
“You will see mothers literally taking their kids out of the way, people not wanting to get into the lifts and some foreigners who go to gym, they are told they need to show their papers showing they quarantined,” she said.
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Jessica claims that the treatment people from Africa are receiving is not the same as for foreigners from the UK and USA, who have been left in isolation and not forced to test.
“We have colleagues and friends from US who have not even been quarantined. They [are] only isolated. They were never tested. My colleague from England never tested and when we ask why this is happening, we are told it’s because of the many black people in Guanzhong who have got the virus. It’s shocking how racist people are. The stuff they say.
“It’s just the unfairness and blatant discrimination. Just because we’re from Africa, we have to go through this over and over again, but nothing is happening to the people from UK and USA.”
Anxiety and no gardens
Regardless of the current uncertainty, Jessica said she is lucky to at least have her husband with her, but is worried about her friends who are single – and have to be alone when asked to quarantine.
She said, although the situation in their province was not as bad as getting evicted, they were still stressed. She added that they had to get tested again next week, which would make it their fourth test.
It is very difficult to be in self-isolation, especially alone in the country, because there are no gardens where they live, she adds.
“My friends are single and are in seclusion. It’s hard for them because it’s not like in SA where there are gardens for them. We live in apartment buildings. We are on 18th and 20th floors and that in itself makes us anxious.”
The teacher said they were now starting to regret their decision to return to China, but that they had been told that there jobs were on the line if they did not come back.
*For the couple’s safety, News24 has used a pseudonym for the teacher.