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Alleged racially-motivated vandalism concerns Penticton Chinese community

Chinese community worried fear surrounding COVID-19 coronavirus a cause for discrimination.

Members of the Penticton Chinese community are speaking out after an alleged racially-motivated attack left them with broken windows and unanswered questions.

During the night of Feb. 21, several windows at the community’s place of gathering were broken with rocks. Security footage recorded an individual walking alongside their building at 501 Winnipeg Street and saying several angry statements before picking up an object and allegedly breaking the windows.

This has left the group feeling insecure.

“Of course we feel a bit upset, and honestly surprised,” said Shui Kei Ma, who spoke on behalf of the community.

“I don’t why they are doing this. Is it because of the anti-Chinese, anti-coronavirus? I have no idea.”

The group, about 15-strong, is new to that area of downtown Penticton. The building was purchased by a member of their community just last month to be used as a place of gathering. The building will also be used as an office space and a place for workshops once renovations are completed. Although signage has not yet been erected, Ma said they are quite visible going to and from the building.

“It’s a very obvious place, and people could actually see us very, very clearly,” she said. “We are new and we’ve started to have activities.”

This isn’t the first time the group has received unwanted attention. Some were recently yelled at while shopping at a hardware store.

“Some of them, not very polite,” said Ma.

Several members of their community moved to Penticton in April, 2019; however, some have been living here even longer. Ma immigrated to Canada in 1992, and moved back to Hong Kong in 1997. At one point she studied in Montreal. She was among the group that arrived back in Canada last April.

They left Hong Kong for several reasons but mainly to escape the turmoil. Before moving back, Ma viewed Penticton as a quiet getaway from the hustle and bustle of cities like Hong Kong, or even Vancouver. That, and she has many friends in Canada.

“I really like this place, it’s nice and quiet,” she said. “It’s nice here in Penticton basically, but we do have some experience… because we just moved back and we need to renovate our house and we went to a store and I noticed that some, I can’t say if it’s ladies or gentleman, but the way they speak to us is quite different than when they speak to a Caucasian.

“I have no idea why.”

Lately as word of the COVID-19 coronavirus has spread, so has fear. Ma said this may or may not have something to do with the way the Chinese community is being treated.

“People are slightly more sensitive of seeing us,” explained Ma. “But of course I let them know actually I moved back quite a while ago, and not from China. Because once people hear about that, I think they are kind of fearful.”

Ma said their reason for speaking out is to raise awareness about what they believe could be racial discrimination.

“Canada is supposed to be a place for all nationalities – we’re very, very famous for that,” she said.

“I think this would be good for people to know, especially in such a small community. I think it’s nice to have people know about this – what happens to a minority like us.”

Ma explained their group wants nothing more than to blend with the community and be good neighbours.

“We don’t want any struggle or conflict with any others,” she said. “We want to spread happiness and harmony.”

Penticton RCMP confirmed that at 12:14 a.m. on Feb. 22 they received the report of broken windows. Authorities are currently investigating.

READ MORE: Online crime reporting coming to Penticton


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Phil McLachlan

About the Author: Phil McLachlan

Phil McLachlan is the editor at the Penticton Western News. He served as the reporter, and eventually editor of The Free Press newspaper in Fernie.
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