GUANGZHOU: More than 100 Africans protested outside a local police station yesterday after one of their compatriots died from jumping out of a building to escape police who were making checks of African passports.
The protesters took the dead body of a man, who they said was trying to evade local police because his visa was overstayed, to the door of the Kuangquan street police station to demand justice, the Xinhua News Agency said.
Police in Guangzhou, the provincial capital, conducted surprise passport checks at shops owned by African business people in Guangyuanxi Lu yesterday afternoon, leading to a brawl with people who failed to show their passports, protesters said.
Representatives of the African community said that they feel harassed by the police's frequent passport checks in their neighborhoods.
The Kuangquan area, near the Guangzhou railway station, is one of the major communities where hundreds of thousands of African people holding permanent-stay permits are living and doing business.
The victim was a Nigerian businessman, said a protester who asked not to be named, to Xinhua yesterday.
But a police officer at the protest site denied anyone had died. A press release issued by the police authority late last night said only two Africans were injured during the passport checks.
One of the Africans was seriously injured after breaking through window glass, trying to evade the police, it said.
Both injured men were immediately sent to hospitals, and the police are investigating the incident, the release said.
The unnamed protester said neither violence nor attacks took place - only shouting and occasional scuffles between the Africans and police.
"There are about 200 African protesters, most of whom are from Nigeria," he said.
The protest resulted in hours of traffic jams on Guangzhou's major roads, such as Guangyuanxi Lu, Huangshidong Lu and Dongfeng Lu.
As of 8 pm, traffic around the police station resumed after representatives from both police and the protesters met to discuss the matter for several hours.
Mo Jun, director of the foreign affairs office under the Guangzhou municipal government, said she had not heard of the protest.
"I was wondering what happened (yesterday) after work. Major roads around the Guangzhou railway station were so jammed," she told China Daily.
Guangzhou has a large population of traders and businessmen from Africa, reflecting the growing ties between this southern major trade city and the resource-rich African continent, she said.
For years, African traders seeking cheap goods directly from the source have flocked to Guangdong province, the manufacturing hub in South China, Mo said.
"But some African traders stay here without legal passports," Mo said.