Emma, the community leader, had just returned from telling a Nigerian family their son had died. He jumped from the sixth floor as he fled police and the hospital had concluded there was no point keeping him on life support. “He was 30. If not for the police he might be alive today,” she says.
Guangzhou public security bureau did not respond to queries. But Emma argued the raids merely pushed people underground and into crime, when the city should be benefiting from them.
Business has fallen by a third to a half, say Chinese vendors who depend on African clients. Migrants are already leaving Guangzhou for cities with more sympathetic officials.
Mary Ngum – not her real name – is here legitimately but says she would rather return to west Africa than endure police raids and wider discrimination.
Elegant and well-spoken, she sighs over the headmaster who refused to hire her to teach “because you are black”; the strangers who hold their noses when she sits beside them on the bus; the derogatory remarks she overhears. Many blame ignorance, not malice, but she thinks Guangzhou worse than other cities she has lived in: “They are always talking about colour,” she says.
Some fear popular prejudice is growing, and fuelling the crackdown.