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Reports of Arson Attacks Against Chinese Businesses in Nigeria and Arrest of Archbishop Protesting Treatment of Africans in Guangzhou Highlights Growing Tensions

Videos are spreading rapidly on Nigerian social media, purportedly showing hundreds of young men burning down Chinese-owned businesses and factories in the Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone outside of Lagos in southwestern Nigeria.

Although these videos were shot last week and posted on YouTube and other social media channels over the weekend, they started to gain significant traction on Monday and Tuesday. 

One of the more popular videos making the rounds featured commentary from the man shooting the video on his phone who said: “Enough is enough, they don’t want to take this trash anymore.” Online, the attack on Chinese businesses at the free trade zone was interpreted as retaliation in response to recent reports of mistreatment of Nigerians and other Africans in Guangzhou. However, it should be noted that at no time in any of these videos was there any specific reference to Guangzhou or alleged discrimination. 

Instead, according to the online news site Punch, the riots broke out last week in response to a Chinese company’s decision to lock hundreds of workers inside their factory as part of an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. The workers understandably became angry and revolted.

TAKE AWAY: These videos are giving voice to a growing number of people online to vent their frustrations over several conflated issues brought to a head by the COVID-19 crisis. The comments, the headlines of the various posts on social media, and even some of the news accounts speak to many people’s anger about what happened in Guangzhou, plus frustrations towards their own government for the lockdown and a looming sense of economic unease (there are several references to people being hungry in these videos). 

What may be more important here than the accuracy of a particular video are themes they’re trying to express. Chinese stakeholders would be wise not to dismiss them outright (as either “fake” or somehow “U.S. influenced”) and study these social media trends that are playing such an important role in shaping Nigerian public opinion on these issues.

Well-Known Archbishop Arrested Outside of Chinese Consulate While Protesting Treatment of Nigerians in Guangzhou

  • The popular Archbishop Samson Benjamin was arrested by Lagos police on Tuesday for violating the country’s national lockdown mandate when he organized a protest outside of the Chinese consulate.
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