Guangzhou residents at odds with increase in foreigners

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 February, 2007, 12:00am

In 19th century Guangzhou, foreigners were confined to Shamian Island, where Chinese and dogs were banned.

But today they are everywhere, and Africans, especially, have arrived, causing Guangzhou residents to put up new barriers. In traditional communities, flat owners and residents complain that Africans are dirty and rowdy, and many tell real estate agents not to consider renting to them.

In Guangzhou, the government is considering how to manage the burgeoning foreign population, which is partly blamed for the city's high crime rate.

At a residential complex in Xiatang Xilu, residents, angered by the din made by foreign residents, put up a notice reading 'We request all foreigners to make less noise at night,' the New Express reported.

'Foreigners like to get together and party. They like to play music loud and sing and dance all night,' a resident was quoted as saying.

A security guard at the Jiazhou Cuiting apartments said Africans were not welcome, but the Tianxiu Building on Huanshi East Road is almost entirely rented by Africans.

Peggy Lubanghe, a Cameroonian who came to Guangzhou as a student six years ago and has settled down in a middle-class neighbourhood with her Congolese businessman husband, said she did not blame the Chinese for complaining.

'I don't know why they must all converge on Tianxiu,' she said. 'It's not the only building in China. Guangzhou is very big.'

Ms Lubanghe said many Africans who were in Guangzhou illegally banded together for illegal activities, 'destroying the reputation of Africa because the Chinese cannot tell one African from another'.

A Guangzhou police spokesman said yesterday that if most owners in a building wanted to bar renting to foreigners, there was no law to stop them. 'We won't tolerate turning people out, but if they don't want to rent, we can't do anything. I personally feel that we may have to regulate and control rental housing. Landlords must show their ownership documents and tenants have to show their sponsorship certificates in passports.'

He said Guangzhou was more liberal than Shanghai in dealing with foreigners because it did not require foreign tenants to report where they were working.

Mayor Zhang Guangning has said that his city will step up publicity to educate foreigners about laws as well as educate locals on how to deal with foreigners, and place more people with foreign-language skills in communities to help manage the foreigners.