Protests in France: Why is the Chinese community in the streets?

Elsa Buchanan
Paris Asian Chinese community protests
Paris Asian Chinese community protests
Paris Asian Chinese community protests

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Paris Asian Chinese community protests

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Violence erupted when thousands of members of the Chinese community of the French capital, Paris, took to the street to protest over the weekend.

As 64m French people prepare to go to the polls later this month for the first round of the presidential election, social cohesion has come under threat in recent months.

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Between far right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen's tough stance on immigration and a series of terror attacks that have left the country on edge, there are fears that community tensions could be rekindled.

It is a time of heightened unease for the 1-2m people of Asian origin currently living in France.

Some 6,000 people took part in protests in the French capital, Paris, on Sunday (2 April) after a Chinese man was shot and killed by police last month.

Riots erupted in the capital Paris after police shot and killed Shaoyo Liu, a 56-year-old Chinese father of five, after a police team was called to his flat in the north-eastern 19th arrondissement (district) in Paris over a suspected domestic dispute on 26 March.

Police claimed Liu attacked a policeman with a knife, causing injuries, and that another officer opened fire in self-defence, killing him. A lawyer for Liu's family rejected the authorities' account, and said the killing was unjustified.

While the media usually draws more attention to the integration struggles of the Muslims, France's largest religious minority, the racist and fatal beating of Zhang Chaolin in a Paris suburb last year revealed another volatile racial landscape in the country.

Following Liu's killing last week, journalist Hélène Lam Trong asked many Franco-Asians to speak up about the stereotypes that surround them. In a video shared by Lam Trong online and seen 1.6m times, the participants said: "I am not discreet, I am not a dog-eater, I am not Tching Tchong, Niakoué or Bruce Lee".

"Today, Asians are targeted directly by violent acts, they are the subject of skits and jokes that no one dares to make about other communities," the journalist is quoted as saying by Cheek magazine. "To reverse the prejudices, it is necessary to go the extra mile. It can take different forms but if you no longer want to be invisible, you have to dare to say it. Widely and loud."

France's 600,000-strong Chinese community is reported to be the largest in Europe. Between 200,000 and 300,000 Chinese are estimated to live in Paris.

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