African expatriates in Guangzhou hit the streets in protest in Sanyuanli district yesterday after an altercation between a Nigerian man and a moped driver led to a severe beating and the eventual death of the Nigerian while under police custody.
According to a Guangzhou police spokesman quoted by the Global Times, the two men were taken to the police station after their fight over the fare, but “the foreigner suddenly fell into a coma at around 5 pm and died after receiving medical treatment at the station.” Police also claim “no obvious bodily injuries” from a medical investigation.
The ever-excellent South China blog The Nanfang speaks to a Nigerian woman who lives in the neighbourhood:
According to Matouvu, a 26-year old Nigerian who lives in the Sanyuanli area, the initial altercation between the moped driver and Nigerian man was in the wee hours of yesterday (June 19) morning. She said when she arrived at her office around 8 o’clock yesterday morning, police cars remained around the area where the altercation had taken place. ”I called to find out what was going on, and they said one man had died from a beating,” she said.
According to what Matouvu has heard, which we cannot verify, the Chinese moped driver asked the Nigerian man to pay RMB5, which the man claimed not to have. It’s not clear if the RMB5 was part of the originally-agreed fare, or an additional charge. Regardless, when the Nigerian man refused to pay, the Chinese moped driver notified his friends to help pressure the Nigerian man. At some point, the altercation escalated, and many believe he was eventually beaten to death.
Matouvu said news of the man’s death spread quickly, and by the afternoon many in the Nigerian community wanted the police to do something about it. That’s when crowds began to gather outside of the police station. ”I got there around 11,” Matouvu said. “There were maybe 50 Nigerians and five police cars. At that time, everything was normal.”
“Chaos started at about 1pm,” she continued. ”Nigerians were in the middle of the road. No cars were allowed to pass. Everything came to a standstill,” she said. She also noted shops along Gongyuan West Road closed down.
The crowds swelled shortly thereafter, and that’s when things deteriorated. ”Chinese people were very big; they had huge sticks,” she said. ”At first it was peaceful, police were trying to make peace. I don’t know what exactly started the fighting. I could see bottles breaking and being thrown.”
She doesn’t know if anyone was severely hurt in the melee, but said word is circulating in the Nigerian community that two police officers were badly injured.
Nigeria does not have a consulate in Guangzhou, and its ambassador is said to be making his way down from Beijing to look into the matter.
Nigerians living in the city have been urging their government to establish a consular office there but to no avail.