124 Chinese allegedly involved in illegal gold mining were reported to be detained in Accra, the capital of the resource-rich West African country of Ghana. The Chinese Embassy in the country confirmed the arrests to Xinhua News on Wednesday.
The news first broke on China’s Twitter-like social media platform Weibo where a netizen under the name of Lu Qi (陆弃) said he received an SOS message from his friend in Ghana via WeChat, popular instant messaging mobile app from Chinese tech giant Tencent. In a series of posts on Weibo, Lu shared pictures of Chinese miners being robbed by local gangs allegedly encouraged by Ghana authorities and abused by local police. The news soon went viral and received very different reactions from Chinese netizens.
The nationalist stance
According to SCMP, about two thirds of the 50,000 Chinese gold miners in Ghana are from the impoverished county of Shanglin in Guangxi province. They poured into Ghana in the hope of making a fortune and lifting their family out of poverty. But their livelihood in this African country isn’t necessarily easier than that in their home country. Crackdown on foreigners working in small mines plus increased robberies of Chinese miners have forced many to leave the country. Those who choose to stay have to buy shotguns or other weaponries to protect themselves against local gangs. Many of them, understandably, are very disappointed at and have a lot to complain about their own government who has failed to provide proper guidance and protection for the Chinese community in Ghana. On Thursday, hundreds of local residents in Shanglin, most of whom are relatives of gold miners in Ghana, took to the street to demand government action and protest at the Chinese Embassy’s lack of protection.
Chinese netizens back home have similar complaints. They took the nationalist stance on what happened in Ghana and demanded the Chinese government to protect and avenge its citizens. Below is a sample of netizen comments:
小米兰8: “Poor China, being bullied all around the world. Even a country as small as Ghana dares to do something like this. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs is capable of nothing except whining.”
蛋蛋的坏坏: “In 2012, China just exempted Ghana’s debt. Now Ghana arrested Chinese. Money cannot buy dignity for a country.”
小东北_2012: “When will our government be awake and rescue our fellow countrymen from Ghana? F@ck ‘African brothers’. We have been brainwashed into believing in the friendship between Africa and China. What friendship? Isn’t it a shame to make up such a lie? F@ck Africans and our doing-nothing government!”
戏剧小宝贝: “Our money given to Africa is wasted again. Whether a country is powerful or not depends on whether its people are bullied aboard. No country dares to slaughter Americans like this.”
常青的竹: “Our government has no balls at all.”
季度用户: “On the international stage, whoever is soft will be bullied. If they see that the Chinese government has no response to its citizens being killed, then why not rob the Chinese? After all, there will be no revenge from the Chinese government or whatsoever. Only a fool won’t rob and kill the Chinese.”
They deserved it
At the same time, another very different voice also arisen from Chinese netizens. A Weibo post that caught netizens’ attention not long after the Ghana news broke started like this:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if someday, a large-scale anti-China moment happens in Ghana.”
The reason? Plenty. The post accused miners from Shanglin of discriminating against the black: “The black are doing the hardest and the toughest jobs, and yet are fed with the worst food.” Food that the author of the post claimed are even worse than what dogs kept at these gold mines are eating. It is also routine for miners to sexually harass African maids working at these mines. The author concluded: “Chinese mine owners or miners alike, making fun of the black is their shared hobby.”
Even if such discrimination and abuse of Africans didn’t happen, according Ghana law, foreigners aren’t allowed to operate small gold mines in the country. Since all big mines are in the hands of big international corporations, all that the Chinese miners can get hold of are small mines, which is indeed a violation of local law.
Many netizens asserted that Ghana authorities did nothing wrong by arresting illegal miners.
李程碑Trump: “Please don’t feel like a victim whenever something like this happens. We cannot control what our government does. But we can mind our own businesses. If we respected others, such tragedy wouldn’t have happened.”
痴货Hy娴: “They [the miners] thought they were still in China, facing no punishment after illegal mining and destroying local environment. Now they knew what it’s like when a government stood up to protect its country. Asking for help? You deserve it all!”
痴货Hy娴: “If some foreigners do illegal gold mining in China and damage China’s environment, many of us would demand them be killed. Now when our own people are illegally mining on foreign lands and damaging their environment, some of us expect our government to offer protection. All I can say is that it’s very well deserved.”
二货萨西米: “If they [miners] violated local law, then they should face the consequences.”
逆风飞飏之有谁共鸣: “Africans won’t hate these miners for no reason.”
马力一千匹: “I have no sympathy for these locust-like miners. They are doing illegal business and, at the same time, asking for help and protection. They don’t deserve our sympathy.”
新东方杰拉德: “In China, no one dares to challenge you as long as you are rich. But it’s another story outside of China.”
gjjlawyer: “Governed by an authoritarian government, China has become a jungle. Even sheep learn to be a predator and to kill. When these people move to a country without brutal rule, the demons hidden inside of them are released. They do all the bad things and don’t feel ashamed.”
Chinese netizens raged on, whether towards Ghana authorizes, their own government or the “ugly Chinese.” But at the end of day, like one netizen 老徐时评 commented: “What we really need to think about and discuss is China’s model of development in Africa…Exploitative development isn’t going to be sustainable.”