Rome's Chinese immigrants demand security

Jan. 12, 2012 at 6:00 AM
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ROME, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The slaying of a bar owner and his infant daughter in Rome illustrates increasing security risks for Chinese immigrants living in Italy, advocates say.

Rome police said they've launched a massive manhunt for two young North African migrants in the Jan. 4 slaying of Zhou Zheng, a 31-year-old Chinese bar owner, and his baby daughter Joy, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Authorities said Zhou was gunned down in the city's Torpignattara neighborhood while holding his 9-month-old baby in his arms. The thieves allegedly demanded the bar receipts during the robbery.

A bag containing bloodied euro notes was found nearby, leading police to suspect two young migrants from the Maghreb region of North Africa with criminal records, the news service said.

The slayings -- part a recent spate of violent killings in Rome -- sent shockwaves through the country and led to a meeting Monday between Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno and a delegation of local Chinese community leaders, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano paid a visit Monday to Zheng Liyan, widow of the slain man and Joy's mother. Napolitano said he wanted to express solidarity with a woman who was "destroyed by sorrow for the horrible murder of her daughter and her husband."

Marches and candlelight vigils in the victims' honor were held Tuesday.

In Rome, thousands of mourners -- including Italians, Chinese, Indians, North Africans and Sri Lankans -- gathered at the Piazza Vittorio in the city's Chinatown, where shop owners lowered their shutters in remembrance of the slain father and daughter, Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported.

Marchers carried signs proclaiming "No to violence, yes to security" and demanded justice for the victims, the newspaper said.

A solidarity march attended by hundreds of mostly ethnic Chinese was also held in Milan's Piazza Gramsci.

There, Hu Guang Chuan, a spokesman for the Milan Chinese immigrant community, said there had been many such robberies in the city, including some at gunpoint.

"To prevent crimes similar to those of Rome, we hope to see more controls," he told the Italian newspaper.

The Chinese Embassy in Rome blasted the slayings as an example of "atrocity and inhuman violence" while one leader of recent Chinese immigrants in Italy said the incident is part of a trend.

Marco Wong, the honorary president of Associna, told Xinhua people living in Italy are being targeted for violence more often.

"The crimes against the Chinese people are increasing dramatically," he said. "I often talk with several traders, and the story is always the same."

A big problem is the language barrier encountered by Chinese victims when they try to report crimes to the police, he added.

Vittoria Mancini, president of the Italy China Association in Rome, however, said while shocking and brutal, the slayings of Zhou Zheng and his daughter aren't indicative of what is generally a close relationship between Italians and Chinese immigrants.

"Rome is traditionally an open city, where people of all nationalities are welcome," Mancini told Xinhua.

Such tragedies "tell the urgent need of restoring civic society and integration in a multiracial capital where my grandchildren go to school together with others from all over the world," Mancini said.

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