French youths in court for deadly ‘racist’ attack on Chinese tailor

Killing in 2016 angered the Chinese community in Paris, who took to the streets to demand better security

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 10:06pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 10:06pm

Two French youths appeared in court on Friday over the death of a Chinese tailor in one of a string of violent robberies targeting Asians in high-rise Paris suburbs.

The death of 49-year-old Zhang Chaolin in August 2016 caused an outcry in the Chinese community, with thousands taking to the streets to protest what they called an increase in “racism against Asians”.

Zhang was on his way with a friend to a restaurant in the suburb of Aubervilliers when three teens attacked them on the street.

The father of two fell and hit his head on a wall after being kicked in the chest.

He died five days later in hospital, while his friend received minor injuries. The attack fit a pattern of robberies targeting Chinese tourists and traders in low-income Paris suburbs.

Zhang’s attackers made off with a bag containing nothing more than a phone charger and some confectionery.

During police questioning one of Zhang’s assailants said they had targeted the pair because they had heard Asians “carry a lot of cash”.

Two suspects, who were 17 and 19 at the time of the assault, appeared on Friday in a juvenile court charged with violent robbery causing death and injury of a racist nature.

A third, who was 15 at the time, was handed a two-year sentence at a separate trial.

One of the defendants’ lawyers, Steeve Ruben, argued that the attack was not racist.

“The victims’ ethnic origin was not a motive,” he said, adding the trio “would have attacked anybody carrying a bag”.

Fellow defence lawyer Marlene Viallet said while stereotypes about Asians were common in low-income suburbs, “there is no hatred towards them”.

The attack on Zhang, she said, was purely an act of “delinquency”.

Around 10,000 people of Chinese origin live in Aubervilliers, Europe’s biggest textile import-export hub, which has a population of 80,000.

Since Zhang’s death, security has improved, according to community leaders.