Since early April, many Africans living in Guangzhou, China have been barred from their homes or even evicted because of rumours that African migrants brought a second wave of COVID-19 to the city.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke to some of the people who faced discrimination, hostility and even temporary homelessness because of these rumours and published their stories in this article. But some videos that purport to show violence and discrimination towards Africans in China are circulating online are fake: they're old videos and have nothing to do with the pandemic.

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: "They treat us like we're the virus": Africans evicted from housing in Chinese city

1. A group beats up a black man with an iron bar

Many people have been sharing an extremely violent video on Twitter and WhatsApp. It shows a group of people savagely beating a black man lying on the ground, his face covered with blood. Captions and comments on the video made it seem like the man had been beaten because of the COVID-19 rumours circulating in Guangzhou.
This Twitter user says that “China’s #COVID19 ‘blame game’ is putting the lives of Africans living in #China [at] serious risk.” He uses several derogatory hashtags alongside his post.

However, in reality, there is no way that this savage and awful beating has anything to do with the pandemic because this video was filmed in 2016 (or possibly even earlier.) We ran this video through a search using InVid (check out how to use the tool by clicking here) and found several instances from a few years back when this same video was posted online.

Back in 2018, the video was widely circulated alongside a caption claiming that it showed a 25-year-old Zambian student who was killed for having a relationship with a Chinese woman. However, we also found even earlier instances of this video online.

A better-quality, slightly longer version, which also includes footage of the same scene filmed at a different angle was posted back in August 2016, with a completely different story. That post claimed that the video showed shopkeepers in Kuching, Malaysia who were beating up a man who they caught trying to rob their shop.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team was not able to independently verify if this is the real story behind the video, though we will update the page if we dig up more information on it. But one thing is clear -- this footage is old and has nothing to do with COVID-19.

2. A street fight between a group of black men and a group of Asian men

Another video, which has garnered hundreds of thousands of views on Twitter, shows a street fight between a group of black men and a group of Asian men. One of the Asian men seems to be brandishing a kitchen knife.

"In Guangzhou, Chinese people beat up Africans who they blame for allegedly bringing back coronavirus,” reads the caption on the video, translated from French. But the caption is false twice over. The incident actually took place in New York and happened long before the pandemic.

This tweet by @BohOusmane reads (as translated from French): 'In #China, specifically in Guangzhou, Chinese people beat up black Africans who they blame for allegedly bringing back coronavirus.'

In their investigation into the origins of this video, the fact-checking team at AFP Fact Check pointed out that the hospital sign and the front of a shop that appear in the video make it possible to establish that the footage was filmed in the Bronx, in New York. This same video was posted in a forum back on March 18, which was a long time before reports emerged of Africans in China being discriminated against because of rumours that they were spreading COVID-19.

Screen capture/Google Street View

3. A shopkeeper who looks Asian gets punched in the face

Social media users were also sharing a third video that was taken out of its original context. This footage shows a black man hitting an Asian shopkeeper. The video was posted on Facebook on April 14 and garnered more than 170,000 views. “Chinese people are starting to pay the price for their racism,” read the caption, which was vague enough that it could be assumed to be referring to the current climate in China.

However, we ran the video through a search using InVid (check out our tips on how to use it) and pulled up posts of the same video from early November 2018.  

At the time, several Kenyan media outlets reported that the man in the video got angry after the shopkeeper called him a monkey. However, other sources said the incident took place in Angola, which is likely as the people in the video are speaking Portuguese.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team wasn’t able to establish the true origin of this viral video. However, it was posted online back in November 2018, more than a year before the pandemic began, so it is clear that the video has nothing to do with COVID-19.

Article by Pierre Hamdi.