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Rome's Chinese Community Mourns Deaths

  • Sabina Castelfranco

A man and a child light candles during a vigil to honor a Chinese father and his baby shot dead by thieves, in Rome, January 10, 2012.

A man and a child light candles during a vigil to honor a Chinese father and his baby shot dead by thieves, in Rome, January 10, 2012.

The Chinese community is in mourning in Italy. Shops are closed and a funeral is to be held Thursday, after a Chinese father and his nine-month-old daughter were gunned down in a robbery that went horribly wrong.

The Chinese community in Italy wants justice and more security. The brutal killing, last week, of Zhou Zeng and his baby, Joy, was too much even for people who are used to keeping to themselves and not complaining. But this level of violence was unacceptable for many in the neighborhood, and the Chinese felt they could not remain silent this time.

Thousands of Chinese took to the streets in Rome for a vigil on Wednesday evening, to call for greater security. Protesters marched through the city, holding large photos of Zeng and his daughter. They also held candles and white and yellow flowers and shouted out "No to violence." There was grief as well as indignation.

Among protesters was Yan Xiaoping. He says this was a tragedy; this violence is to be considered against all immigrants.

Xiaoping says no one can remain silent in the face of such behavior because a city like Rome cannot afford it. That is why people of other nationalities and hundreds of Italians also joined the march, which started in the heart of Rome's Chinatown and ended where the killing took place, in a suburb of the city.

"I think most of the people have the same voice; that is, no violence in Roma. Because Roma is a tourist city and if this news spreads people are afraid and they will never come to Rome and this will hurt Roma's economy," said Xiaoping.

Italians are only too aware the crime level has been on the rise in the capital. Many of them feel the economic crisis plays an important part in this.

Anita Spang is a young Italian who lives in the area where the killing took place. She too decided to take part in the demonstration.

Spang says she felt she wanted to be present because it is a moment of tension among the various cultures and, although it is still unclear who carried out the killing, this is a moment of mourning and of exchange.

Also in the crowd was the spokeswoman of the Chinese community in Italy, Lucia King, who says it is no longer possible to hide the fact that Chinese are targeted because they are thought to have plenty of ready money. Many shop owners have their own vigilantes.

King says the problem of security for the Chinese has been underestimated in recent months because the community has been living in fear and anguish. She complains that it took two lives to finally come to the realization that things can no longer continue.

Zeng's wife, who was present when the killings occurred, escaped with minor injuries. Police in Italy and abroad are searching for two men of North African appearance who have been identified as suspects in the case.

The Chinese community is the fourth largest in Italy. About 150,000 Chinese are believed to be living in Italy. Now, they are preparing for a funeral. The Chinese New Year is Saturday. This year, it will be a significant event in Rome, attended by the Chinese ambassador and the Rome's mayor.