Monday, October 24, 2016
Rap song sparks safety concerns for some members of Richmond's Chinese community
A two-year-old song from a little-known rapper has stirred up members of the local Chinese community, prompting some of them to question their safety in Richmond.
Lyrics contained within American rapper YG’s Meet the Flockers track appear to encourage would-be criminals to specifically target Chinese homes for break-ins, due to the perception that such households will be laden with cash and jewelry.
The controversy has sparked a continent-wide petition for the song to be banned, which has now garnered more than 100,000 signatures and will soon be submitted to the Whitehouse in the U.S. capital.
Locally, a group claiming to be “activists for the Chinese community” — but which doesn’t yet have a name — has created several discussion forums on the social media platform WeChat, with many of its 180 or so members citing the song amid concerns for their safety in Richmond.
Ahead of an awareness rally outside the Canada Line Brighouse Station on Saturday, one of group’s leaders, Clint Cheng, said the group believes the Chinese community in Richmond is being targeted because of a stereotype that “people in the Chinese community are rich and always carry lots of cash.”
“We just feel there are a lot of crimes taking place in this area and people are not reporting it because of cultural issues,” said Cheng, who, along with a dozen or so fellow members, held signs in English outside the station in Saturday’s pouring rain.
“This rap song is adding to people’s feeling that they’re being targeted.”
Cheng pointed out that the rally was to call for safety for everyone, not just the Chinese community, before adding that some of the WeChat discussions surround “equal rights for Chinese-Canadians.”
“We demand safety; we want law and order for everyone.”
Although Richmond has a relatively low crime rate compared to neighbouring municipalities, Cheng claims the figures are skewed due to the assertion that people in the Chinese community, particularly in Richmond, are more reluctant to report incidents — such as robberies and break-ins — to police due to cultural differences.
“Chinese people come into this country; many don’t speak the language, so they don’t feel comfortable reporting it or think they will get into trouble or something,” explained Cheng. “I encourage them all to report a crime if they see one happening or are the victims of one.”
A “lack of participation from the Chinese community” in many aspects of daily life is also part of the safety problem, said Cheng.
“I’ve been (in Canada) almost 20 years and the low turnout at elections is one of the worst in the province,” he said.
“They come from a country where there is no election and there are language barriers when they come here; they are, unfortunately, more focused on their studies and getting a job than participating.”
But just because some members of the Chinese community “don’t participate or report crimes, doesn’t mean we should be dismissed,” added Cheng.
One of the people participating in the group’s online chat forum is Wendy Yuan — a former Liberal Party of Canada candidate and failed nominee for the Steveston-Richmond East riding — who has been sitting on the City of Richmond’s intercultural advisory committee for almost two years.
Yuan said she is well aware of the safety concerns in some corners of the local Chinese community.
“There’s this perception that, rightly or wrongly, due to the song, it’s OK to break into a Chinese home and that it’s promoting break-ins,” Yuan said.
“There is also a myth in some Chinese cultures that if the money is stolen, but you don’t get hurt, then it was the money that stopped you from getting injured. They are linking this song directly to the break-ins.”
As for members of the Chinese community not reporting crimes, Yuan said she is at pains to urge people to get involved and encourages them “to learn some English.”
“They have to get out of their comfort zones (after immigrating). When I came here 32 years ago, there weren’t many Chinese and that pushed me into learning English.
“Today, in Richmond especially, they don’t have to speak English to get by every day.”
According to the City of Richmond’s online criminal activity map, there have been 485 residential break-ins this year, spread liberally around the city’s populated areas and not confined to specific communities.