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Police killing exposes anguish of France's Chinese community

Latest update : 29/03/2017

© Geoffroy van der Hasselt, AFP | Fireworks are shot at the police during a protest in front of a police station in Paris on March 28, 2017.

Article text by FRANCE 24

Chinese immigrants and the Chinese government have reacted angrily to a police killing in Paris that prompted violent street clashes and exposed the fears and frustrations of France's large Asian community.

Protesters gathered Tuesday in northeastern Paris for a second day of demonstrations over the fatal shooting of a Chinese man in his apartment, and police launched an internal investigation into a death that took on diplomatic implications.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had summoned a representative of the French embassy in Beijing Tuesday and urged French officials to "get to the bottom of the incident as soon as possible".

Beijing calls on Paris to "guarantee the safety and legal rights and interests of Chinese citizens in France and to treat the reaction of Chinese people to this incident in a rational way", Chunying told a press briefing.

"Meanwhile, we hope that our citizens... in France can express their wishes and demands in a lawful and reasonable way," the spokeswoman added.

Residents and police gave conflicting accounts of what happened before the man was shot to death by police on Sunday evening.

Police said an officer fired in self-defence during a raid after the man wounded an officer with a "bladed weapon".

But rumours circulated among Chinese immigrants that 56-year-old Shaoyo Liu was in front of his children while cutting up fish with scissors and had not hurt anyone. 

‘Murderers’

Paris police said around 150 "members of the Asian community" gathered late Monday outside a police station in the northeast of the capital and clashes broke out.

With chants of "murderers" and candles that spelled "opposition to violence" lining the road, demonstrators broke down barricades, threw projectiles and set fire to cars.

Three officers were slightly injured in the confrontation and 35 protesters were arrested, police said.

France's Chinese community rallies against crime wave

France's Foreign Ministry responded Tuesday by calling the security of Chinese in France "a priority".

The ministry confirmed that an inquiry has started to shed light on the circumstances of the shooting.

The move did not calm demonstrators who again gathered at the police station on Tuesday afternoon, including families and friends of people detained the night before.

"Justice must be done, the killer must be punished!" the protesters shouted.

A meeting of the Chinese community in Paris was planned to discuss possible further actions.

A large but discreet community

France is home to Europe's largest population of ethnic Chinese, a community that routinely accuses police of not doing enough to protect it from racism.

In September, 15,000 people rallied in the French capital to urge an end to violence against the Asian community after the beating to death of Chinese tailor Chaolin Zhang drew attention to ethnic tensions in Paris’s immigrant-rich suburbs.

"Chinese are victims of racist attitudes in France, especially from other ethnic groups," Pierre Picquart, an expert on China at the University of Paris VIII, told AP. "They are targets for crime because they often carry cash and many don't have residence permits, so can be threatened easily. They're angry with police for not protecting them enough."

Picquart stressed that it was unusual for the community, known for its discretion, to protest so vigorously.

"Chinese people do not like to protest or express themselves publicly, so when we see them like this, it means they are very, very angry. They've had enough of discrimination," he added.

The expert estimated that there are 2 million people of Chinese origin living in France, a country with a population of about 66 million.

The recent killing and clashes came after thousands of people marched in Paris to condemn the alleged rape in February of a 22-year-old black man by police.

The alleged incident in the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois cast a new spotlight on the festering issue of police brutality towards members of France’s visible minorities.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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