After police shot and killed a Chinese man in Paris, protesters clashed with police. The case has caused diplomatic tension between France and China and heightened concerns among local Chinese, Jake Cigainero reports.
By Jake Cigainero
His family says he was holding scissors because he had been cutting fish. French police claim he attacked them, and shot him in self-defense. Authorities have opened an investigation into the death of a Chinese national, and China is calling for more protection for its citizens in France.
Paris’ Chinese population is now looking for more security and assurance from the French government. Tamara Lui, president of the association “Chine de France – Francais de Chine” in Paris, says the city’s Chinese inhabitants already felt unsafe in the streets of some neighborhoods, especially after a Chinese shopkeeper was killed in a mugging last year.
Now after police shot someone from their community under unclear circumstances, she says they don’t know where to turn.
“Because this drama was caused by the police, we don’t know what to do. Today it’s them who kill us,” Lui told DW. “We don’t know anymore who we can ask for help.”
Monday night about 150 people gathered outside the police commissariat in Paris’s 19th district to protest the death of a Chinese man killed by police at his home. The northeast area of the city is home to one of Paris’s largest Chinese communities.
The demonstration in front of the police station began peacefully but deteriorated later in the evening when security forces tried to disperse the crowd. By the end a police car and trashcans had been set on fire, and police detained 35 people. Three officers were lightly injured. Protests continued Tuesday evening, where clashes with police were smaller than the previous night.
According to police, officers responded to a call on a family dispute Sunday evening. They say Shaoyo Liu, a 56-year-old father of five, tried to attack them when they broke through his door, and so one officer opened fire. A police spokesman told French media that the officer acted in self-defense.
The family’s lawyer, Calvin Job, said they “totally contest” the police’s version of events, and that Liu didn’t try to injure anyone. Job told French media that Liu had been cutting fish with one of his daughters when police attempted to enter the apartment. Security forces allegedly broke down the door and shot Liu at pointblank range in front of his children.
Police say it was a neighbor who called emergency services and reported hearing shouting. The Liu family’s lawyer also denies that there was any shouting from the Liu apartment. Le Figaro reported that in 2012 Liu was arrested at his home and sent to a psychiatric hospital after a call to police from the same neighbor.
The case has put pressure on diplomatic relations between France and China. China’s foreign ministry summoned a French diplomat in Beijing to explain and demanded France better protect “the security and rights” of its national citizens. They also asked that French authorities thoroughly investigate to “shed light on this case.”
France’s foreign ministry responded that the safety of Chinese people in the country was a high national priority.
The Chinese government’s statement was assuring as it let expats to know that the government still supported them even in other countries, Lui says.
In previous years, China has called on France to reinforce security measures for its citizens after a string of robberies targeting Chinese tourists.
Community members feel unsafe
Lui says the Chinese community is “an extremely easy target for delinquents,” especially in the suburbs. The police shooting of Shaoyo has only diminished their confidence in French security forces.
“We don’t exactly feel protected by the state,” says Lui, who has been in France more than 20 years. “There isn’t a sufficient police presence in the streets. There aren’t enough cameras. So we don’t feel protected in some neighborhoods.”
Last September, thousands of protestors from the community marched in Paris after shopkeeper Zhang Chaolin died from injuries in a robbery in the northern suburb of Aubervilliers.
In the same Paris neighborhood as the most recent drama, a Chinese supermarket’s sliding door glass remains cracked from an attempted robbery in February. A woman who did not want to be identified said it was not the first time. She added that Chinese have become less safe in the streets of Paris.
Lui says the Chinese population frequently feels like police response comes very late and that victims wait a long time. She says since a lot of Chinese expats don’t speak French well, it’s difficult for them to explain when reporting crimes, and that they feel the police aren’t very welcoming or helpful to them.
Lui suggests the police and the Chinese community should work together to improve the reception of Chinese inhabitants when they go to report crimes. “But not just for us, for everyone and other populations.”
“We’re like others. Maybe we are seen as easy targets because Chinese people have a reputation of being quiet, not causing trouble, not speaking French well. All of this constitutes a type of myth about the Chinese,” says Lui. “But we’re not the only victims.”