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Cablegate: Guangzhou Government Grapples with "Africa Town"

VZCZCXRO9454
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGZ #0307/01 1550139
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030139Z JUN 08
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7205
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 GUANGZHOU 000307

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM
STATE PASS USTR
STATE PASS TO AFRICA POSTS COLLECTIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD EINV ECON PREL SOCI XA CH NI ML RW
SUBJECT: GUANGZHOU GOVERNMENT GRAPPLES WITH "AFRICA TOWN"

(U) THIS DOCUMENT IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. IT SHOULD NOT BE
DISSEMINATED OUTSIDE U.S. GOVERNMENT CHANNELS OR IN ANY PUBLIC FORUM
WITHOUT THE WRITTEN CONCURRENCE OF THE ORIGINATOR. IT SHOULD NOT BE
POSTED ON THE INTERNET.

1. (SBU) Summary: The local authorities have responded to the
growing numbers and high concentrations of Africans in various
Guangzhou neighborhoods by quietly funding research into crime
rates, religious practices, and tax payments associated with their
activities. It is unclear whether this is the first step in a
revision of municipal policy towards the African and other foreign
communities. Authorities, who are not disclosing the results of the
research, may be contemplating stronger enforcement of tax laws
while ramping up administrative and policing capacity in foreign
communities. End Summary.

HIGH CONCETRATIONS OF ARICANS WORRY LOCAL AUTHORITIES
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (SBU) Guangzhou's growing and increasingly visible African
community has attracted the attention of local authorities. At
their request, Associate Professor at the Guangzhou Academy of
Social Science's (GZASS) Urban Management Institute, Huang Shiding,
recently conducted research on Guangzhou's burgeoning foreign
population, with special emphasis on Africans. Huang estimated
there are 20,000 Africans currently living in Guangzhou, consisting
mainly of export buyers, laborers, service sector business owners,
and a small number of students.

3. (SBU) Huang revealed that local authorities are extremely
concerned about the high degree of concentration of Africans into a
few Guangzhou neighborhoods (Sanyuanli and Dengfeng areas) because
their presence prompts many Chinese to move out of those areas.
This in turn makes control difficult for the government due to
cultural and language barriers. Huang commented that many Chinese
residents do not want to live in "Africa Town" due to "differences"
ranging from culture to lifestyle to hygiene. Many also believe
that crime rates in areas populated by Africans are higher than in
other areas, and hence are dangerous places to live and raise a
family. They also believe that African religious practices draw
unwanted attention and/or cause disturbances, Huang asserted.

4. (SBU) Huang carried out his research quietly, only sharing his
findings with a few officials in keeping with the nondisclosure
agreement he signed with the Guangzhou Communist Party Committee.
With permission from the GZASS Foreign Affairs Office, he agreed to
discuss his findings with Congenoff only in general terms. Huang
declined to say whether his research showed that crime rates in
African communities are actually higher compared to other areas in
Guangzhou. Nor would he answer any questions pertaining to
religious practices within the African community. However, despite
the presence of a Public Security Bureau (PSB) official throughout
the meeting, it was apparent from his responses that he had
researched these topics and they were important areas of concern for
the officials who commissioned his study.

CONTRARY TO POPULAR OPINION, NIGERIANS ARE A MINORITY
--------------------------------------------- --------

5. (SBU) Nevertheless, Huang debunked a common misconception among
locals, expatriates, and the international press: that the majority
of the city's Africans are from Nigeria and that they commit a
disproportionate number of the city's crimes. According to Huang,
who told us he had access to official visa records during his study,
Malians are most populous in Guangzhou, making up 50 percent of the
African community; Congolese come in a distant second, with
Nigerians somewhere further down the list.

6. (SBU) Huang cited three possible reasons for this misperception:
some of the more visible members of the community are Nigerian,
giving the impression that they are the most numerous group; many
Africans involved in illicit activities, such as prostitution or
drug smuggling, will claim to be Nigerian in an attempt to hide
their true identities. Still others claim to be Nigerian simply
because it is a more recognizable country than their smaller,
neighboring homelands in sub-Saharan Africa.

GUANGZHOU MAY BE CONSIDERING TAXING AFRICAN BUSINESSES
--------------------------------------------- ---------

7. (SBU) According to Huang, most African export buyers and
business owners are split into two divergent economic strata: those
spending more than 10,000 RMB (about USD 1500) monthly, and those

GUANGZHOU 00000307 002 OF 003


spending around 500 RMB (about USD 72), with the "middle class"
constituting a small minority (hour-glass distribution). Well-off
Africans typically employ members of the lower stratum as
housekeepers, porters, and warehouse workers, and usually pay them
less than their Chinese counterparts earn.

8. (SBU) Huang asserted that while the local community certainly
benefits from African consumption and trading activities, the
municipal government itself does not benefit financially because
most African companies do not register or pay taxes. Concurrently,
the cost of administering and policing the African community is
rising. Huang declined to say whether there is a move afoot to
bring the Guangzhou-Africa trade and associated businesses in line
with municipal registration and tax policies, but the revenue
implications of such an effort were clearly an issue he had analyzed
carefully.

LACK OF FORMAL LEADERSHIP IMPEDES LOCAL AUTHORITIES
--------------------------------------------- ------

9. (SBU) Huang verified that there are no official representatives
from African countries, formal chambers of commerce, or other
registered business/trade organizations in Guangzhou, leaving local
authorities at a disadvantage in understanding and managing the
African population. However, he said there are a few extremely
well-connected, highly influential African businessmen in Guangzhou.
These "Big Brothers" immigrated to the city more than ten years
ago, can speak fluent Cantonese, and have managed to obtain Chinese
citizenship. According to Huang, they will exert their influence
when events threaten their or the community's interests, or require
close coordination with local authorities. They also appear to play
arbitration and policing roles within the community. Huang cited a
recent murder case involving an African victim in which local
authorities, who Huang admitted are clueless about the African
community, had to request assistance from one of these informal
community leaders in mounting their investigation.

10. (SBU) The only official representation from African governments
in south China is located in Shenzhen, across the border from Hong
Kong. The Rwandan Department of Commerce (DOC) has been there since
2005, and more recently Zambia has opened an office. These offices
are focused on attracting investment to their home countries rather
than serving the local expatriate community. Albert Rugaba with the
Rwandan DOC told us many Africans see Shenzhen, which "rose out of
farmland to become [China's] most prosperous city...in only 20
years," as a model of development. According to Rugaba, it was
difficult at first to overcome a prevalent assumption in China that
"Africa equals chaos," but he pointed to some notable successes: a
visit by Shenzhen Vice Mayor Zuo Qinrui to Rwanda to assess business
opportunities; investment in Rwanda by Shenzhen Jiuzhou Technology
to manufacture low-end mobile phones; and an agreement with Beijing
Star Communications Network Technologies to develop the cable (DSL)
industry in Rwanda. Rugaba commented that Africa needs investment
not "aid with impossible conditions." He added that Chinese
emphasis on "partners as equals" appeals to African sentiment in the
wake of colonization.

TWO AFRICAN TRADERS CONFIRM SOME OF HUANG'S FINDINGS
--------------------------------------------- -------

11. (SBU) Guangzhou's Tianxiu Building houses five floors of shops
catering to African and Middle Eastern export buyers. Congenoff met
there with Diakite Aly Badara, General Manager of ABD Trading
Company, LTD. (unregistered). Diakite said he had been coming to
Guangzhou for five years, mainly to purchase clothing and
electronics that are in demand in his home country of Mali, and that
his monthly income is between 2,000 and 5,000 RMB (USD 300-700).
Diakite's company ships two-to-three containers to Mali annually,
each containing about USD 50,000 in merchandise. Diakite commented
that Chinese wholesalers usually give him two receipts, one
reflecting the true value of the merchandise and a second for half
the value, which he provides to Malian customs for tax purposes.
Diakite confirmed that neither he nor his company pay taxes to the
municipal government. He also verified Huang's assertion that
Nigerians are a minority in Guangzhou ("Malians and Guineans are
prevalent"), and mentioned there is tension between Nigerians and
the rest of the African community due to Nigerians' "different
thinking" and involvement in "drugs and prostitution."

12. (SBU) Nwanevu Bellarmine, a Nigerian export buyer with K-Frank
Scientific Co., boasts a more than ten-year history in Guangzhou and
is one of the more prosperous members of the African community. He
told us his company trades mainly in medical supplies, but that he
will also personally purchase and ship other "hot items" demanded by

GUANGZHOU 00000307 003 OF 003


his customers, such as the latest mobile phones, which are largely
unavailable in Nigeria. Nwanevu also verified some of the local
prejudices against Africans mentioned by Huang, describing how
locals often hold their noses in his presence, or assume he is
involved in illicit activities since he is a Nigerian. Nwanevu, a
Mormon, also attested to the relative religious freedom he and other
Africans (predominately Christians and Muslims) enjoy in Guangzhou.


COMMENT - SOUTH CHINA AUTHORITIES FACE A NEW DILEMMA
--------------------------------------------- -------

13. (SBU) In all likelihood, Guangzhou authorities are seriously
contemplating how to better manage the city's burgeoning foreign
population, with emphasis on Africans due to the perception that
they are partly responsible for the city's rising crime rate. It
has been three years since the last major overhaul in policies
governing the administration of foreigners, when additional
responsibilities were passed to local police bureaus; in essence,
passport and visa checks suddenly became the responsibility of the
average beat cop. The obvious problem: most police officers do not
speak English well, let alone Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Songhai and other
African languages now frequently heard on the streets of Guangzhou's
predominately African neighborhoods. Training to meet this need is
clearly cost prohibitive. Authorities appear to be exploring
options for stronger enforcement that extends from street crime to
tax evasion. End Comment.

GOLDBERG

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