Special to the China Africa Project
On March 24th, a Chinese restaurant in Kenya stirred up a heated discussion among the local Chinese community. Subsequently, numerous comments had been made by the local Chinese people in the following days.Unfortunately, such discussions didn’t reach the ears of local residents nor the foreigners. And this may be one of the reasons that the mass media and local people in Africa were holding distinct views against those of Chinese. We gathered some information on such matter from the local Chinese residents and have translated them in order to provide the international community with material to understand how local Chinese people are responding to this incident.
Perspective NO. 1: It was not about “racial discrimination”
Mr. Yang from a Chinese restaurant said: “Over 90% of the Chinese restaurants in Nairobi had been robbed before, and many of them had been robbed more than once. The robbers always came as ordinary customers at night, then they entered the restaurant and robbed us with guns. We are just doing our small business to make ends meet, and we do want more customers. We are just simply scared. There was one night we didn’t even dare to let a customer in even though he claimed to be a senator. Who could have known he’s telling the truth or not? Hiring securities is no use. They would work with the robbers! We can’t trust anyone.”
“All the Chinese enterprises in Kenya were involved in this event. And this may be a warning for Chinese businessmen in Kenya, letting them know that the first thing they have to learn is to follow local laws. It is their responsibilities to receive all the licenses and follow all the procedures. Don’t let local authorities have things on them. Moreover, running business should be people-oriented. Chinese people may understand this restaurant’s choice, but local residents will consider it as ‘racial discrimination’. Actually we can tackle the problems more politely.”
“I think if they are truly‘racist’, they will not serve local people at anytime, however they serve them in the daytime. The reasonof not accepting local customers at night is fear.”
“Every time I have a meal in Chinese restaurant I can always see Kenyans enjoy their meals there harmoniously.”
“First of all, we cannot expect that the restaurant owner could predict all the consequences as a knowledgeable scholar. Secondly, when they faced the problem and finally made the decision, nobody helped them and they didn’t think of consulting others. This is a real picture of Chinese people in Kenya. Thirdly, doing this is probably the last choice of the restaurant owner. Blaming them cannot solve the problem and we need to think if there are any alternative solutions that can help them.”
Perspective NO. 2: It was incredibly wrong.
“This is exactly racial discrimination…It is more urgent for them (restaurant owners) to apologize than to explain.”
“It is exactly racial discrimination if anyone judges a person by his or her color. I don’t want to criticize my fellows, but I understand the Kenyans because I know their feelings when I face similar situations in the U.S. I read the comments on Mosoku’s Facebook page, and some people also mentioned their stores being robbed. However, most of the people still believe that this is not an excuse to justify racial profiling.”
“It is exactly racial discrimination if anyone judges a person by his or her color. Once I made an appointment with my Kenyan friend in the Family Restaurant at midday. My friend drove an oversized vehicle, so they didn’t let him in. I decided to meet him in the doorway, but there was a person staring at us all the time. I understood him, but it was so stupid and abrasive. He (the restaurant owner) really does not need to dislike all the local people just because some of them hurt him. I think they owe my friend an apology, and they owe an apology to all the law-abiding Kenyans who they refused to serve.”
Perspective NO. 3: Chinese people could clear the air if they explained their reasons and apologize in time.
“I think only a sincere apology and change the way that they operate their restaurants can help tackle this problemm. They need to tighten up security.”
“I think at this moment, any kind of explanation is useless. The restaurant owner should be careful about his statement. It would save him a lot of trouble if he phrased his statement as the following: “Please accept our apology for only serving Chinese customers after 5pm. We want to help Chinese feel like home when they are enjoying dinner.”
“We need to address the problem as soon as possible, make a statement publicly, propose an internal strategy, invite local people to Chinese restaurants, show our respect and our willingness to talk, reject any disrespectful behavior.”
Perspective NO. 4: Some people with ulterior motives are behind this. Theyare pulling the strings and widening the conflicts. We have to protect ourselves through legal approaches.
“Some thoughts regarding the event: I stayed in Kenya for more than two years during which I have been to all the Chinese restaurants in Nairobi and some of the restaurant owners became my friends. It is very understandable why they did so, because when I was in Nairobi the robberies happened in the Chungking Restaurant and in the Sunshine Restaurant right beside the Family Restaurant. I was thinking: in addition to ‘say no’, are there any alternative solutions for this? I can’t think of other ways. Similarly, not only the catering industry, but also all the Chinese people in Kenya andalso Chinese in all the countries in Africa are easily to be ‘favored’ by local robbers and local corrupted officials. However, how many local Chinese communities organized effective ways to help each other to response to robberies? What did the Japanese and the Korean do here? Why can’t we learn from them? To be specific, it might be an improvement if some of the Chinese restaurant owners made the decision together for not accepting local people after dark. Although they did not fully consider the strong reaction from the society, at least they start to organize themselves together under a mechanism.”
“My friend kept refreshing Facebook page since yesterday, but her voice is not loud enough. I hope Chinese people in Kenya who have opinions can leave your opinions and tell truth from falsehood. Please support us on Facebook if you don’t have your own. Ms. Zhao Yang is still in jail. She is a brave and honest girl. She went to juba during the South Sudan war as a volunteer. She also participated in Kenya’s environmental protection activity, in which she walked from Arusha, Tanzania to Kenya during eight days. She hasn’t ‘been eating meat for a long time. All of her friends who know her are fighting for her on Facebook, but their voices are not loud enough. She never said anything like Africans are not allowed to enter her restaurant. That rule was set long time ago.
“She and her team just took over the restaurant less than a month. This event was reported by an African headwaiter. There are a lot of people who intend to use this event to alienate the relationship between China and Africa. Please tell your voice on Facebook.”
“Yes, manager Xu and Zhao Yang’s mom officially took over the restaurant on March 1st. They did not even have a cook for the first week.”
“It is so unfair.”
Perspective NO. 5: If there is going to be any demonstration, it will probably end up pretty ugly.
Mr. Zhang from a Chinese restaurant said: “our restaurant always follows the local laws, but we still worry about getting looted and vandalistic action. Now we are terrified.”
Perspective NO. 6: Chinese community should stick together to face this issue and provide training accordingly beforehand.
“Personally, I think there are two imperative points: first of all, this restaurant needs to be punished no matter what the excuse is. We can analyze the reasons ourselves in order to propose improvement in the future, but it’s not what local people care about right now. If it is real discrimination, then it needs to be punished. A determined attitude will avoid many troubles and arguments. Secondly, we should resolutely appose any discrimination and anti-China words and behaviors. It is especially vital that the local authorities must protect legally operated restaurants and companies.”
“Actually we have Chinese associations in Africa, and they should do something to help each other to ensure security.”
“Why Chinese associations in Africa are not functioning and how can they start to function are worth to be discussed. Maybe this event can stimulate the growth of Chinese communities. It cannot address the problem if there are only appeals and condemnations”
Comments from the China House:
First of all, in Kenya I learned that most Chinese people believed it was inappropriate for that Chinese restaurant to do such thing, even though their initial intentions are understandable. And we can also learn from the comments made by foreign media that the outsiders are not aware of the information I have mentioned above. Many foreigners simply thought Chinese people were against them, but the truth is entirely different. Most Chinese people are now condemning this issue just like the Kenyans.
Furthermore, many Chinese people are gradually becoming suspicious about those who are condemning this issue because they know little about the mass media and the phenomenon of civil society——– is there any anti-China individual involved in this event? This kind of attitude may politicalize this incident. In this case, people may make some conspiracy theory out of it rather than focusing on this issue itself. If the situation worsens, it would be incredibly difficult for both parties to understand and communicate with each other.
At last, I want to point out there is a huge gap between Chinese and international society. The Chinese community felt aggrieved while foreigners considered Chinese people are all evil. The reason why the gap between two societies is widening is that a smooth communication mechanism has not been established. This leads to a situation where everyone is talking alone and nobody is hearing others out. If both sides have preconceived ideas against each other, it would be much more difficult to mediate the dispute.
Summarized by Hongxiang Huang (China House) | Website: www.chinagoingout.org | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Translated by Melody Liang (ECHO) | ECHO is an international translation and social media company | Website: echo-international.org | Email: email@example.com
[TRANSLATION] Chinese Online Reactions to #RacistRestaurant in Nairobi
Special to the China Africa Project