China wrestles with student racial unrest. Resentment over privileges accorded foreigners also sparks protests in Nanking
More than 1,000 Chinese demonstrators marched through the center of Nanking yesterday in the latest of a series of disturbances directed at African students. The continuing unrest reflects strong racial tensions and resentment over privileges accorded foreign students. It also comes as a serious embarrassment to a Chinese government that prides itself on its solidarity with the third world.
A group of African diplomats based in Peking traveled to Nanking yesterday to investigate the situation.
Yesterday's demonstration began at Hehai University, where violence first erupted on Saturday night in a dispute over the admission to a dance of Africans with Chinese dates. The protesters called for retribution against the Africans, whom they accused of having started the fighting.
Chinese officials denied a rumor that one of the 13 people injured in Saturday's clash had later died. The rumor sparked off a demonstration on Monday by several thousand Chinese. They blocked traffic in Nanking's streets and shouted slogans such as ``black ghosts go home'' and ``beat the black devils,'' according to foreign students who witnessed the march.
More than 100 black African students were being kept in a hotel in the city's suburbs after having earlier fled their college dormitories during anti-foreign rioting. The students went to the railway station on Sunday but were prevented by police from boarding a train to Peking.
Chinese officials said the students would not be allowed to leave the hotel because of continuing ``serious tensions.'' A number of American students were also reported held.
There are an estimated 1,500 Africans studying in half a dozen Chinese cities. But Africans are still a rarity in most parts of China. Black visitors say people sometimes come up to them and rub their faces ``to see if the color comes off;'' others edge away if they inadvertently touch a black person on a crowded bus.
Prejudice seems to be exacerbated by official policies at China's universities, where local students resent the superior living conditions enjoyed by their foreign counterparts.
Foreigners live in separate quarters and before visiting them, Chinese students must sign in with a doorkeeper. Close relationships are actively discouraged.
The Peking government supplies both Chinese and African students with living allowances, but the Africans receive almost five times as much as the Chinese.
Local students also resent what they describe as the tendency of the Africans (almost all of whom are men) to have parties, drink a lot, and associate with Chinese girls. One Chinese described his African classmates as being ``scary.'' Another said they just ``lazed around and had a good time at China's expense.''