Shopmorko Online News Desk: The rain did not deter an army of volunteers from gathering in Vancouver’s Chinatown to demonstrate their support for the historic neighborhood, which has been affected hard by the COVID-19 outbreak on Saturday.
Close to 200 volunteers dressed in waterproof gear and armed with garbage pickers patrolled the alleyways, streets, and sidewalks in the annual Community Cleaning Campaign, removing the debris that has caused the monument to lose some of its sparkles in recent years.
“Seeing everyone show up was incredibly inspiring,” said Jordan Eng, president of the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Association.
“This is where it all started, this is the heart and soul of the community.”
“I think everybody has a memory of Chinatown and we don’t want to lose that as the city continues to grow,” added City Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung.
The area’s slow decline began more than a quarter of a century ago when parking problems and crime started driving customers away.
By early 1996, many Chinese were visiting Richmond’s then-five Asian malls — and Chinatown found it hard to compete.
Fast forward more than two decades, and COVID-19 took a devastating toll.
Tourists and shoppers disappeared amid a spike in anti-Asian attacks and a surge of street disorder, and Chinatown was overrun with graffiti, vandalism, and garbage.
According to the Vancouver Chinatown BIA, many Chinese mom-and-pop merchants were facing succession issues and considering calling it quits prior to COVID, closed up shop in 2020.
“We’ve had a lot of shops close down because of the pandemic, loss of tourism, and what’s happening on the street,” Eng told Global News.
“Growing up down in Chinatown like, you see how it has changed,” Chinese Community Policing Centre volunteer Louis Li said.
Li, who patrols the streets serving as the eyes and ears for the heritage neighborhood where he was raised, said it’s important to help bring people’s confidence and sense of safety back.
“I believe it would make a significant impact in terms of cultural identity and ensuring the survival of these businesses,” Li told Global News.
Li’s crew was one of the dozens of volunteers that participated in the annual clean-up from at least 10 different organizations across the city.
The participants, who include merchants, residents, and neighbors, are all dedicated to restoring the community’s culture and tourism attraction status.