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Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 15:51 UK

S Africa Chinese 'become black'

Man in Chinatown
Chinese activists say they also fought against apartheid

The High Court in South Africa has ruled that Chinese South Africans are to be reclassified as black people.

It made the order so that ethnic Chinese can benefit from government policies aimed at ending white domination in the private sector.

The Chinese Association of South Africa took the government to court, saying its members had been discriminated against.

An estimated 200,000 ethnic Chinese live in South Africa.

The association said their members often failed to qualify for business contracts and job promotions because they were regarded as whites.

The association said Chinese South Africans had faced widespread discrimination during the years of apartheid when they had been classified as people of mixed race.

The BBC's Mpho Lakaje in Johannesburg says the Broad-Based Economic Empowerment and the Employment Equity Acts were designed to eradicate the legacy of apartheid which left many black people impoverished.

The laws give people classed as blacks, Indians and coloureds (mixed-race) employment and other economic benefits over other racial groups.

The Black Economic Employment concept was initiated by the governing ANC to help previously disadvantaged individuals - to start their own businesses or become part of existing companies - thus redressing the country's historic inequalities.

Whites still on top

Our correspondent says the ruling provides clarity for corporations in South Africa on the rights of their Chinese staff - who were declared "coloured" under apartheid but are generally regarded as white today.

An example cited in court papers includes an oil company that disqualified Chinese citizens from getting a slice of its biggest empowerment transaction to date.

The company says the group is not catered for in the Black Economic Empowerment codes.

Another example includes a Chinese national who was refused an opportunity to buy shares from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange two years ago.

None of the three government departments cited as respondents in the court case opposed the application.

A study released last month revealed that white South Africans still earn around 450% more than their black counterparts, 14 years after the end of apartheid.


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