By Kayce Brown
We note with consternation the response of the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone to a previous edition of Retrospection, captioned: ‘China and its love for abusing Africans.’
The spokesperson of the embassy, in a statement, described as “baseless” the premise of the article which it noted made slanderous references about China by “hyping up an isolated case sensationally.”
First for all, thank God that we are not in China, where we know people face arrest or at worse disappear for speaking their mind, like in the case of Jack Ma recently.
The statement from the embassy tried to dismiss all the issues raised in our article. The case it referred to as isolated is the racist attack of a Chinese worker against a Sierra Leonean colleague. That incident was captured on video and it has become the subject of wide discussion across Africa as it remind a lot of Africans what their brothers and sisters go through in the hands of foreign investors, especially racist ones.
Contrary to the embassy spokesperson’s claim, that attack by the China Railway Seventh Group (CRSG) Chinese official on his Sierra Leonean co-worker isn’t isolated.
As a matter of fact, the article discussed the issue from a continental point of view, which meant that a case was made of how Chinese nationals come to Africa and abuse Africans and, with the help of their government, thanks to its exploitative relationship with African leaders, get a free pass for their illegal, exploitative and racist actions.
It is amazing how China is always quick to point to the West whenever it is faced with criticism about its actions. And that was exactly what this faceless embassy spokesperson did in that statement which accused us of giving China a bad name on the basis of “rumors” spread by the western press.
If anything, the west, specifically the western media, is only guilty of exposing the reality about China to the world. That’s why we know about stories like the Xinjiang experience, among many other dark sides of the Communist Party-led government of China.
But again, like we noted earlier, if you live in Africa, you do not need to watch the BBC, CNN or Aljazeera to see the brutal and indifferent side of China. We are dealing with them at home on a daily basis.
The mention of China’s excesses is also always met with invocations of the China-Africa cooperation.
Firstly, we are not against any cooperation with Sierra Leone or Africa that is conceived to benefit all sides. What we are against is any country or group of people that treat Sierra Leone or Africa without respect.
We also want to reiterate that our intention was and is never to label the country China, rather, when we say China we are talking about the leadership – the Communist Party – whose policies dictate the actions of its representatives abroad.
Secondly, granted, the China-Africa Cooperation has something good about it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t question bad experiences associated with it.
So, yes, not only are Chinese corporations violating local laws across Africa, they also sometimes help corrupt and authoritarian governments oppress their people to get their way on what they need. Examples of this abound across Africa, from the mining sector to the construction sector.
Chinese operations in Africa are characterized by reports of violation of labour laws, cheap labour, and environmental damages, among others.
Look at the disastrous environmental damage a Chinese investment is causing in The Gambia through a Fishmeal factory in a place called Sanyang. It’s sickening. This is what China calls cooperation with Africa.
In 2019, an independent lawmaker in Zimbabwe, in an interview with The Epoch Times, accused Chinese companies of failing to adhere to local laws and for abusing workers in the African nation.
The lawmaker, Temba Mliswa, argued that China’s investments in the country should be reviewed, noting that they were skewed in favor of the Chinese.
“They [Chinese companies] don’t comply with our labor laws. They are causing environmental degradation, they are violating human rights, and are involved in corruption. If Chinese investment is so good for Zimbabwe, why is the Zimbabwean economy still struggling?” Mliswa said.
Any Sierra Leone can ask the same question: “If Chinese investment is so good for Sierra Leone, why is the Sierra Leonean economy still struggling?”
Through the so-called Belt and Road initiative, a number of African countries risk losing their sovereignty to China thanks to this debt-trap diplomacy of the Communist Party.
We expect China to know that it is the making of its bad image at the international stage, not bad press, as the spokesperson in their statement tried to make the readers believe.
In other words, China is its own enemy.
China doesn’t play by the rules. It believes that stifling free speech is the best approach to attaining development. It seeks to achieve this by all means. It does so by stonewalling the independent press or by buying journalists and media practitioners and rendering them mute in the face all sort of abuse by either Chinese government agents or corporate institutions with link to China. This is the reason why you do not always hear stories of Chinese abuse and illegal activities in Sierra Leone. Not that they do not exist.
Like we noted in our previous article, the case of the CRSG incident is just one.
The embassy statement spoke about professional journalistic ethics. The mention of “professional journalism” sounds funny coming from a Chinese government agency. Authoritarian regimes recognize professionalism only when it echoes with their interest.
According to reports late last year, Chinese hackers secretly redirected surveillance footage from the African Union headquarters so it could be viewed abroad. Some reports cited experts saying that is part of a larger pattern by Chinese networks to electronically infiltrate key communication channels in Africa. Which kind of a friend will do such?
The embassy statement also claimed that the issue of Xinjiang, which we also mentioned in our previous article, had nothing to do with human rights and that it had to do with terrorism and Chinese sovereignty. Granted, this is debatable. But it doesn’t change the fact that there are human rights issues there.
We did not even mention Taiwan and Hong Kong, two Chinese controlled territories that are seeking to end communist control over their sovereignty.
Just about a week ago, the world watched with shock as the Beijing controlled Hong Kong government arrested a journalist and a publisher on trumped up charges, with the soul goal of silencing their critical voices. Their publication, Apple Daily, has since been shut down.
China enjoys presenting itself as the victim of humiliation by the west when in actual fact it is a major player in this complex world of politics that has left countries like ours in constant despair.
Take the Covid-19 issue for example. No matter how the embassy spokesperson tried to paint it, this pandemic originates from China. What is under contention is whether it was made in a lab or whether it came from the wild. It is open secret that Beijing has not only denied entry to World Health Organization (WHO) investigators, it has also refused to share relevant data.
When in February 2020 Dr Li Wenliang of the Wuhan Central Hospital issued a warning about a strange new virus, the Chinese authorities summoned him for questioning. We all know how it ended for Dr Li. He died, under suspicious circumstances. That’s what happens to people in China who don’t go by the expectations of the Communist Party.