June 18, 2020
CHRS Researchers Contribute Video Analysis to Washington Post Story on Anti-Black Discrimination in China
By Sarah Cahlan and Joyce Sohyun Lee
In the face of an invisible and deadly enemy, fears and deep-rooted biases often take over. This bore out in the reaction of some communities to the coronavirus, a swift and highly contagious disease. In the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, the African population — one of the largest in Asia — and black residents said they became the targets of a crackdown from local officials over unfounded fears that Africans were a high-risk population for the spread of the disease.
An Afro-Canadian man living in Guangzhou said public sentiment seemed to shift overnight. “Suddenly there is public shunning. People literally running from me on the street. And it was very, very, very bizarre.” The man spoke to The Fact Checker on the condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety.
Before these incidents, people who spoke to The Fact Checker said their experiences in China were better than in other places — such as the United States, where the killing of George Floyd and other black men at the hands of white people have sparked anti-racism demonstrations across the country.
The Fact Checker worked with researchers at professor Yulia Tsvetkov’s lab at Carnegie Mellon University’s Language Technologies Institute and the Center for Human Rights Science to track what happened on social media during this period. Researchers collected about 16,000 Weibo posts, filtered from a larger data set of 200,000 posts, containing at least one Guangzhou location tag and one “African-related” keyword from late March through May. Weibo is a Chinese social media platform.