THE GUARDIAN (T&T) – Chinese restaurant owners fear that untold damage has been done to their businesses in the aftermath of a video showing Chinese nationals skinning a dog and Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan’s statements allegedly equating the reduction of the stray dog population to dog meat being served up to diners at Chinese restaurants.
Sales have plummeted by as much as 80 per cent at some Chinese food establishments.
The owners fear if this disturbing trend continues they may be forced to close their businesses because they will be unable to pay the rent and staff wages with dwindling customers.
The situation has become so dire that two emergency meetings to address the matter were held by the members of the China Society, the umbrella organisation for the various Chinese associations and groups, at the Chinese Association headquarters at St Ann’s on Tuesday and a business place in St Clair, on Thursday.
The fallout has been felt in Chinese restaurants nationwide, and not only in the western peninsula where the video originated.
Affected business owners came from as far as San Fernando to relate their experiences.
Johnny Chow, a member of the China Chamber of Commerce, said depending on the districts, several owners reported a drastic decline in sales ranging from 50 per cent to as much as 80 per cent.
He said some restaurant owners had no choice but to dump their perishables or sell their unused chicken, beef and pork at below cost price.
Chow said this could cause a domino effect in the local economy affecting local suppliers to Chinese restaurants.
Vice-president of another Chinese group, the Fui Toong On Association, Joe Chan, said a local supplier’s sales to his Chinese customers dropped by 40 per cent.
Besides their livelihood being placed in jeopardy, another major concern of members of the Chinese community is that the xenophobia, verbal insults, hazing, discrimination, and racial stereotyping that Chinese are subjected to may escalate to physical attacks, dirty tricks and smear campaigns.
The Sunday Guardian was shown video footage of a man exiting a vehicle and cutting the tyre valve stem on a Chinese man’s pickup in Massy Stores car park in San Fernando, earlier this week.
A dog hanging by a rope was posted on social media on Friday near to a Chinese establishment in St Croix Junction, Princes Town.
The Sunday Guardian confirmed from a resident that the act was done by someone in the neighbourhood and not Chinese people.
In the light of the backlash and negative repercussions, the China Society and other organisations of T&T citizens of Chinese descent have called on Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan to retract his statements warning people to beware of what they consumed from Chinese restaurants.
In a statement, the Chinese organisations alleged that “a proverbial witch-hunt” was now on against Chinese in T&T and they were being harassed by other citizens.
They said the result of the re-broadcast of the video and the minister’s comments was that all people of Chinese descent had become the subject of derogatory comments, racial slurs, harassment, intimidation, racial isolation, intolerance and bias.
On the streets, in business places, in person, on the phone and on social media they were constantly being singled out and harassed.
Chinese Association president Clyde Allum said, “As a Trinidadian-Chinese I am repulsed by the video. I accept there are Chinese who eat dog meat but that does not apply to every Chinese.
“What I find very much more distressing is the fact that Dr Khan made those statements and actually attributed the lack of stray dogs to the Chinese community.
“I think it is in very poor taste and we would like him to make an apology to the Chinese community.”
Joseph Tai Chew, president of the Chung Shan Association, said Khan’s remarks were unfortunate.
He said the Chinese community had done a lot for the country in various fields, including the economy, medicine, arts, culture, and generating employment.
Tai Chew said Chinese people were very reserved and didn’t make a lot of noise, but it was very sad when negative statements about the Chinese came from “higher places.”
President of the China Society Yung Gen Siu said a solution must be found soon for the Chinese restaurateurs’ plight.
Andrea CWH-Coutain from the I Am Trinidadian Facebook social media page said her concerns had always been for the Chinese people and Chinese mixed people of Trinidad, and how they were perceived and treated in the public eye.
Candice Lee Kim, who took to social media with the I Will Not Go Back to China sign campaign, said Khan’s statements were irresponsible. Lee Kim said Trinidadians generally took what the media reported to heart without a follow-up or investigation.
Chinese community members are fearful that there will be reprisals from the State in the form of relentless health food checks.
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan did not return the Sunday Guardian’s calls.