Sun Qiang, a Chinese immigrant businessman, was recently given the title of development chief in Kwahu-Abetifi, a small town in southern Ghana about three hours drive from the capital Accra. The ChinaAfricaProject reported that Sun received the title after donating $5000 to build a school in the town. The honor of development chief, known as Nkosuohene in Ghana, is frequently bestowed upon expatriates and local political figures that have made significant contributions to development projects. The title does not confer any real power but is simply an honorary expression of gratitude from the community. As is custom, Sun was given a Ghanaian name and was carried on the shoulders of local townspeople during the ceremony. This is not the first time a foreigner has received such a title in Ghana. As reported in Face2FaceAfrica, hundreds of African Americans and other Westerners have been given various honorary titles over the past three decades.
However, this is the first time that such a title has brought about a racist online backlash. This is because Sun is Asian. As soon as the story broke in media outlets, a deluge of racist comments and Sinophobic conspiracy theories flooded social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Nairaland, the most popular internet forum in Nigeria.
One Tweet which received almost 30k retweets falsely claimed that Africans are not allowed to stay in apartments or eat in restaurants in China. This is categorically false as thousands of Africans receive scholarships to study and live in China. In fact, China is the most popular destination for African students in the world. All of these African students live in apartments and eat in restaurants everyday.
A viral Tweet fear mongering with Yellow Peril myths.
While in China they’re not allowing Africans to stay at their apartments or eat in restaurants https://t.co/vh4wp3yTZL
— Pretty Ebony Cupcake (@susuajoke) September 7, 2020
The majority of responses on Twitter were negative with many claiming it was “embarrassing” or “infuriating” for a Chinese man to be welcomed by a Ghanaian community. Others promoted Sinophobic conspiracy theories of Chinese taking over Africa or seeking to enslave or exploit locals. Both of these rumors are demonstrably false. In contrast, China has invested heavily in development projects and provided scholarships to thousands of Ghanaians to study in China.
A South African netizen mocks Sun with the racial epithet “King Ching Ching.”
King Ching Ching???????? first of his name. pic.twitter.com/EkR0xsEpTi
— House of Khath (@IG_Jay_Khath) September 8, 2020
“BlackButterfly” feels it is a “deep rooted sickness” for Asians to be treated with respect in Africa.
We got a sickness. A deep rooted sickness because this is EMBARRASSING.
— BlackButterfly ????????????1️⃣9️⃣0️⃣8️⃣ (@BlackBu17136406) September 8, 2020
A poster on Nairaland makes a violent threat against the Chinese man. Another appears to compare the Asian man with chimpanzees.
Not all replies were racist, this Tweet explains the situation without denigrating Sun.
This specific "chief" title was created in the 90s – to help with World Bank and IMF-led development. It doesn't actually mean much and is given away to non-Ghanaians all the time. It's like advertising. He's as much as "Chief" as Keith Farrelle Cozart.
— The Maltese Sailor (@MalteseSailor) September 9, 2020
It should be noted that these racist netizens do not represent all Ghanaians let alone all Africans, however this backlash indicates that anti-Asian racism may be a growing problem in Ghana and surrounding countries. This is not the first case of anti-Asian racism in the country. According to the BBC, an unarmed Chinese teenager was shot in the back and killed by Ghanaian police in 2012. As reported by SCMP in 2018, three Chinese immigrants were burned to death in nearby Nigeria. Elsewhere on the continent, three Chinese were murdered in Zambia and at least seven have been killed in South Africa in this year alone. It is hoped that social media platforms such as Twitter and Nairaland will do more to curb anti-Asian rhetoric and fake news.
The post is a guest submitted article. Any opinion posted by a guest poster is his or hers alone. We do not approve or disapprove any opinion laid out by a guest. We like to thank Bruce Yi for his submission.