Guangzhou: Many African Expats, Many Illegal

An African woman in Guangzhou’s Xiaobei Road, known to the locals as the “chocolate city”.

The African community residing in Guangzhou is now the largest in Asia, which is presenting another set of problems for Chinese immigration agents: up to half of the Africans in the city are apparently there illegally,according toa study released by the Guangzhou DevelopmentalAcademy of Guangzhou University.

The study (2015), said Guangzhou is now home to more than 200,000 people from Africa, but up to half of them aresanfeiforeigners or “three illegals”; that means they either illegally entered, are staying or working illegally in China.

In 2007, Guangdong authorities arrested 7,000sanfeiforeigners and detained more than 700 people. In 2008, the number swelled to 13,000, of which “Africans account for a large share”, the report said. The crime rate among thesanfeiforeigners has been on the rise, and the report claims drug-related crimes alone accounted for nearly 60 percent.

Two African persons walking outside of a clothing wholesale market in Guangzhou.

As well, the study linked the city’s African community with “mass incidents”, a euphemism for protests, and other social vices including rape, AIDS and childbirth out of wedlock that “affect Guangzhou residents’ social life and the city’s social stability”.

On the flip side, African immigrants have contributed to the city’s burgeoning economy, and are heavily involved in business and trade with their home countries. Many have married Chinese wives andplan to stay long term.

In 2012,a large-scale protest eruptedin the city after a Nigerian man died mysteriously in police custody.In mid-July of 2009, hundreds of Africans protested in front of a police station in Guangzhou after a Nigerian man jumped from second floor to escape a surprise immigration raid.

Africans first started to immigrate in large numbers to the city in the 90s drawn by Guangdong’s manufacturing industries. Clustering in Xiaobei Road, Huanshi Road and Sanliyuan, many Africans buy cheap clothes and electronics and export them to Africa.

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