THE Chinese community in Jamaica is reeling under pressure from law enforcers and the lawbreakers.
On the one hand, thieves and extortionists have been having a field day with Chinese businessmen, particularly expatriates, fleecing them of millions of dollars.
On the other hand, some of the people who swore to serve, reassure and protect, are themselves puting their hands in the till, oftentimes going away with hefty sums of money, as reward for an extended extortion scheme.
“We are meeting hell from both criminals and the police,” one high-ranking member of the Chinese community told the Jamaica Observer.
The Chinese are not talking publicly, believing that if they were to do so, their lives could be placed further at risk.
But a Sunday Observer investigation turned up cases of robberies against expatriate Chinese in recent weeks, two of them occurring in the upscale gated community of Long Mountain, Eastern St Andrew.
One night, members of one family were at home watching television and playing games when three men barged into their house, brandished guns, and tied up the occupants.
The robbers raided the refrigerator, stuffed themselves with food and drink and then emptied the garbage on the beds.
One was heard to have commented: “Oonu Chiney people live good eeh … oonu have plenty food and plenty drink.”
The men then took a large sum of money and left the scene.
Days later, another Chinese expatriate was watering his plants outside his townhouse, when he was held from behind by the throat.
Thinking that it was a neighbour pulling a prank, the man spun around only to see a man aiming the business end of a 9mm pistol at his face. Three other men were standing beside him.
The businessman was taken inside the house by four men, tied up and robbed of money.
When he eventually broke free, telephoned the nearby Chinese Embassy, which in turn contacted the police, investigators held the occupants of a car that fitted the description. One of the four men turned out to be a policeman.
However, the men were not charged, as the victim refused to identify them, for fear of reprisals.
That same week, a Chinese expatriate who runs a wholesale establishment in downtown Kingston was robbed of over $2 million in cash, which represented proceeds from the sale of phone cards.
Chinese business people are known to run successful enterprises across the island, most of them profitably.
The growth in their commercial activities has spread like Australian bush fires and even in communities where they never before visited, their presence is now being felt.
Apart from the cities of Kingston and Montego Bay, towns like the Clarendon capital of May Pen, Highgate in St Mary, Falmouth, Trelawny, Port Antonio in Portland and the Manchester capital Mandeville have all seen an upturn in activity of Chinese entrepreneurs.
The skulduggery involving police personnel though has a wide concentration in the downtown Kingston zone.
According to police sources, on any given day, uniformed members of the constabulary rip off Chinese businessmen, many of whom cannot speak English properly.
“This situation has been going on for long and the commissioner is aware of it,” one senior officer told the Sunday Observer.
“Many of the Chinese businessmen come to Jamaica with a culture of not opening bank accounts … they much rather like to handle hard cash, and so they become easy target for unscrupulous cops.
“They will leave their business places downtown, on the way to their uptown homes, travelling with large amounts of cash.
“Sometimes they are stopped on the road by policemen, who upon searching their vehicles, find these large amounts of cash. The Chinese usually cannot explain clearly how they came in contact with so much money, or their immigration documents are not in order, and usually have to bribe the policemen to allow them to leave, because many of them cannot speak English. This happens almost daily,” the constabulary official said.
Deputy commissioner of police in charge of crime, Carl Williams said that he was aware of the problem, but referred the Sunday Observer to Assistant Commissioner in charge of the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) Devon Watkis, whom he said was taking the lead on the matter. This tabloid was unsuccessful in getting a response from ACP Watkis.
Some expatriate Chinese businessmen spend short periods in Jamaica, and so do not go through the formal system of paying taxes despite operating profitable enterprises.
This noncompliance with the formal tax system by expatriate Chinese business persons have earned the ire and wrath of what is called the ‘Jamaican Chinese’ many of whom openly comment on the added pressure that they face and have to deal with, because of the modus operandi of the Chinese expatriates.
“We are Chinese, we are Jamaicans and we do business along the official lines as set out by Government. There are policies we don’t agree with, but in the main we comply by paying the various taxes and simply follow the law. When others do not comply, we feel the heat and are oftentimes labelled as being unpatriotic,” one prominent Jamaican Chinese entrepreneur told the Sunday Observer.
“We are under serious pressure,” said another member of the Jamaica/Chinese community, regarded as one of the wealthiest men in this island of 2.8 million inhabitants.
“Everyday, the Chinese community awakes to additional heat from criminals and police alike. It’s as if we have nowhere to turn, because on the one hand, the bad men are making our lives miserable and on the other hand, the people who are supposed to help prevent such things are themselves deeply involved in it. It’s just so messy,” said the influential businessman.
Although Jamaica security officials have reported several cases of robbery against members of the local and expatriate Chinese community, incidents of murder against them remain low, compared to other races.
The murder of the Lyn couple - Richard and Julia of Mandeville, and the killing of Annotto Bay, St Mary businessman, Winston Chen and his wife some years ago, remain two of the highprofile cases in recent years.