Protests Continue in Paris After French Plainclothes Policemen Gun Down Chinese Citizen

Yin Yi, Qian Tongxin / Yicai

2017-03-29

(Yicai Global) March 29 -- Chinese citizens living in Paris have been sleepless for two days after a Chinese resident was shot dead three days ago by French plainclothes policemen at around 8.00 p.m. local time. The next day, Chinese residents in France began protesting.

The French police force was suspected of accidentally shooting a Chinese resident to death in Aubervillers, Paris, local Chinese newspaper the European Times reported two days ago. Sources from the Chinese circle in France told the newspaper that on the evening of March 26, a Chinese man was shot dead while cooking with a cutting tool in hand by policeman who burst in through the door.

French media, however, claimed that the man “had records of family violence and mental illness,” and tried to use scissors to attack the police before being shot, which local Chinese residents denied.

Protests are still ongoing.

A “Confusing” Incident

French police and the family of the deceased gave very different descriptions of the shooting. Police said several officers broke into the room after hearing a child scream.  An Asian man, surnamed Liu, around 50 years old, lunged at police with scissors in hand and stabbed one officer. Police shot and killed him before he could attack again. Officers said the matter should be handled by the National Police.

Liu’s family, however, gave a very different statement. One of his daughters said on social media that her father was preparing dinner, holding scissors to cut fish. “After hearing somebody knock forcefully on the door, the family felt panicked,” she said, adding that her father “refused to let the police in, with one hand clutching a clothes prop and the other pushing the door.” Five or six minutes later, the police broke in as her father “staggered a few steps back” and a shot was fired. Her father could not stand up afterwards, she added, saying he did not stab the police and was not aware any officers were injured.

The Chinese embassy in France said two days ago that after receiving the news, it started an emergency consular protection system and immediately contacted French police to learn more. It asked the authorities to uncover the truth as soon as possible and was told that judicial police officers and inspectors had intervened and are investigating the incident.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also made representations to the French government, requesting the protection of Chinese citizens in France. At a press briefing yesterday, China’s Foreign Ministry said that it held an emergency meeting with the head of the French Embassy in China earlier in the day.

“There is not enough information to make a judgement on the incident,” a spokesman at the Consulate General of France in Shanghai told Yicai Global, adding that he personally believes the incident to be “confusing.”

Police And Chinese Clash

Two days ago, local Chinese mourned at the crime scene, but were quickly ushered away by police. The disturbance did not completely subside until 11.30 p.m. that night, with local Chinese media reporting that the police crackdown was “outrageous.” A ten-second online video showed police dragging a Chinese resident while another fell to the ground. In another three-minute video, police clashed with the crowd in chaotic scene with several Chinese being beaten.

Chinese citizen Xiaolong, who lives in Paris, provided a series of photos taken at the scene. In the images, local Chinese are gathered around a police station, with candles on the ground in honor of their compatriot. Others show Chinese being chased by policemen wielding shields and batons. “Chinese people in France have suffered unfair treatment many times,” Xiaolong said. “This event is even harder to accept. We shouldn’t wait any more, instead, we should come together to safeguard our own rights and interests.”

Many involved in the protest are Chinese students in the city. “Yesterday, over 400 people went to the police station to mourn and protest, but were stopped with force by armed police,” a senior student said. “My friend was at the scene, and people became so agitated that police shoved the crowd and even beat them with batons. Many of them were hurt. It’s so frustrating. I wanted to the join the protest too.”

Tension Across the Country

The event, which has led to insecurity among Chinese and even other Asian people in France, isn’t the first of its kind.

In 2011, Chinese residents were assaulted in Belleville Chinatown, Paris. Hu Jianming, son of a Chinese hotelier, and his friends found themselves at the hands of muggers. Hu tried to discretely take photos of the event, but was spotted and chased to death by the perpetrators.

After that event, thousands of Chinese people living or traveling in France organized an anti-violence protest, opposing behavior towards the Chinese and calling for French authorities to better safeguard them. The latest incident suggests no such measures were implemented.

“It’s nothing new in the Chinese community, things like this happen every day,” a Chinese surnamed Cheng, who has lived in Paris for 23 years, said on the latest event. “Particularly in Aubervilliers. Robbery and assault aren’t uncommon, Chinese people being robbed comes up in the news a lot.”

“The main reason is that Chinese people are a vulnerable group here, despite China’s international standing improving in recent years,” he said. “Chinese people still have a relatively low social status in overseas communities.”

“This happened before the presidential election,” said Zhang Xin, a Chinese media professional in Paris. “It shows the political risks France is facing. With the rise of far-right politics, xenophobia will become even more serious,” she added, saying that Chinese people should work to become more influential in their fight for more rights.

“The refugee crisis has intensified social issues in France,” said social history professor Noel at La Sorbonne. “Domestic safety has been tense since the terror attacks at a Paris concert hall at the end of 2015, and the truck attack in Nice last year. The attack at Westminster in England has also kept police alert around Asians.”

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