Online, there are increasing numbers of videos about Africans living in China being on the receiving end of discrimination. In early April, rumours started circulating that the African community was responsible for a second wave of Covid-19 infections in China. Now, a new type of video has appeared on social media: Africans apparently getting their revenge on Chinese people. But many videos are false - and have nothing to do with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since early April, many Africans living in Guangzhou, China, have been barred from their homes or been forcibly evicted because of rumours that the African community brought new cases of coronavirus to China. The FRANCE 24 Observers team interviewed several victims of this discrimination and wrote about it in this article.

Videos that allegedly show violence and hostility towards Africans in Guangzhou or, conversely, Africans reacting angrily to discrimination have been circulating widely on social media and messaging services like WhatsApp. Quite a few of these videos are fake, as the FRANCE 24 Observers team demonstrated in an article we published earlier this month. Here are three other videos on this theme that we've debunked. 

1. Chinese shops in Nigeria set on fire?

Several videos, which have garnered hundreds of thousands of views on Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter since they were first uploaded on 19 April show a building going up in flames while people run down the street to get away from thick, black smoke.

"Save your life, get out!" yells one person in English. The captions on these videos claim that these are Chinese shops burning down in Nigeria. Quite a few of the comments also indicate that these fires were set in retaliation for discrimination faced by Nigerians in China.

It turns out, this fire did take place in Nigeria on 15 April in a market in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo state in the southwest of the country. We examined the buildings and other elements shown in the video as well those that appear in photos of the same fire published by Nigerian media. By identifying these landscape details, we were able to pinpoint the exact location of the fire using Google Street View: it took place in Dugbe Market on Iya Olobe Oketedo Street.

The image on the left shows a screengrab of a video of the fire. The image on the right shows Iya Olobe Oketedo Street on Google Street View.

The image on the left shows a screengrab of a video of the fire. The image on the right shows Iya Olobe Oketedo Street on Google Street View.

After locating the fire, the FRANCE 24 Observers team contacted Omoloye Mattheux Bamidele, who owned a shop selling mobile phone accessories that was destroyed by the fire.

"The 15 shops that caught fire were all owned by Nigerians,” he said. “There are no Chinese run shops in this area. The fire started in a store selling mattresses, which is two shops down from mine. The fire started in the middle of the day and we have no idea how it started.”

This fire did indeed take place in Nigeria in April 2020 but it was not a case of Chinese-owned stores being burned in reprisal attacks.

2. An African beaten up in China

Quite a few FRANCE 24 Observers readers took to WhatsApp to send us a video that earned tens of thousands of views on Facebook. The video shows a group of Asian men beating up a black man in a shopping centre. Most of the posts featuring this video were published in mid-April and claim that the video shows violence sparked by rumours that the African community in China was spreading Covid-19.

We ran this video through a reverse image search using the tool InVid (follow this link to find out how to do this yourself). InVid pulls up previous instances when the same footage was posted online. We immediately pulled up a post featuring this video published on a Nigerian website… Back in June 2015! According to the website, the incident took place in Hong Kong and the victim of the beating was a merchant from the Igbo tribe (an ethnic group that lives in Nigeria).

The fact-checking team at AFP Fact Check confirmed that the man in the video was speaking Igbo. However, when they used the Chinese search engine Baidu Maps to locate the commercial centre, they discovered that the incident didn’t take place in Hong Kong. It actually took place in Foshan, in Guangdong province in southern China.
Screengrab of Baidu Maps (Credit: AFP Factuel)

The FRANCE 24 Observers team wasn’t able to establish the story behind this fight. But it definitely took place in China, at least five years before the Covid-19 pandemic.
3. A black man fights with a naked Asian man in the middle of the street

A strange video viewed several thousand times on Twitter and shared widely on WhatsApp shows two Asian men, including one who is entirely naked, fighting with a black man in the middle of the street. Quite a few people online claimed that this bizarre clash had something to do with the Covid-19 pandemic.

We ran this video through a reverse image search and quickly determined that it was old. We found a discussion about it on a Reddit forum from July 2019. Turns out, the fight didn’t take place in China, but in Philadelphia in the United States (at this exact location on Google Street View).

FRANCE 24 contacted the man who filmed the video (who also appears in the footage). We haven’t yet received a response from him.

For the time being, we haven’t been able to establish the reasons behind this clash. However, we can confirm that this video is at least nine months old and thus has nothing to do with the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Article by Pierre Hamdi (@PierreHamdi)