Poor communication responsible for Guangzhou situation – Onyeama

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The Federal Government has said that poor communication between Chinese authorities and African consulates in Guangzhou, China, was responsible for the alleged maltreatment of Nigerians reported in the area.

The government, in turn, has urged Nigerians to be objective in assessing situations such as that of the Guangzhou incident.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama stated this while briefing journalists in Abuja in the company of Chinese Ambassador Dr Zhou Pingjian.

Onyeama said the Nigerian officials in China had informed him that poor communication was responsible for efforts made by Chinese authorities to contain an incident of a lady who tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the area.

Recalling the incident, Onyeama made reference to a video in both Igbo and English languages which explained that the situation was not quite what it appeared to be regarding the supposed maltreatment of Nigerians in China.

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Onyeama explained there was a flight which conveyed a group of Nigerians to Guangzhou in which some Nigerians on the flight tested positive for COVID-19.

Amongst the Nigerians, the minister stated, was a lady, who owned a restaurant in Guangzhou, who tested positive.

“An African restaurant, a Nigerian restaurant frequented predominantly and almost exclusively by Africans and Nigerians and that the Chinese authorities obviously picked up on this that there was this group of people who had tested positive.

“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 measures 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, this very, 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,” Onyeama said.

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Onyeama further said that having seen the video and received various calls from China, he alerted the Nigerian Embassy and officials in Guangzhou at the consulate, particularly the acting consul-general.

“And they confirmed that that narrative was the true narrative, that there was, in other words, this case that had been confirmed is positive that came in from an African flight and that there was this lady who owned a restaurant who was positive and the great fear that all the clients visiting that restaurant and maybe other restaurants might have been infected and might now be passing on that infection. So, after their experience in Wuhan, they were very determined to contain this in this way.

“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 consulates, the African consulates in Guangzhou, that this was the situation, this was the measures that they were putting in place and it could have been a joint effort, a team effort, and that mutual suspicion would not have been there. And, of course, that was not done and that led to counter-narratives and exacerbated the situation,” Onyeama explained.

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Onyeama disclosed that both the Nigerian and Chinese authorities are working closely to resolve the issue and are on top of the situation.

Earlier, Onyeama said the Nigerian Government took very, very seriously the issue of the human rights and wellbeing of Nigerians anywhere and everywhere in the world.

Onyeama also 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, Pingjian said the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China took note of the seriousness in which the minister and the Nigerian government placed on the issues raised by Nigerians in China.

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.

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“The minister, I should say, has said all that. We are totally on the same page,” Pingjian said.

The Chinese envoy further said nothing has changed in China’s policy of friendship towards Africa, even as he said China cherished its strategic partnership with Nigeria.

He stated that Guangzhou was only fighting COVID-19 and not any Nigerian or any African or any other foreign national.

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