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Friday, April 13, 2007

The news about 300 Chinese inhabitants in Paolo Sarpi Street, Milan, Italy, raising a Riot because of a fine that the City Police was giving to one of them, has probably been already widespread all around the world.

As I live in Milan, and as I know more than something about the situation at stake, I want to present my point on the argument, in the hope that it will be read by someone in the interested parties.
First of all, let me state that I am, by my very nature, against any form of discrimination, be it racial, cultural or religious. Secondly, let me state that I know personally many of the Chinese people living in Paolo Sarpi Street, and whenever I had any business with them, I've been treated nothing short than respectfully.

In example, I bought some ink, paintbrush and stones for Chinese calligraphy down there. When the female clerk of the shop ascertained that I did know the matter, she summoned one of their community "leaders" to talk with me. He sent a girl with precise instruction about the material to get from a distant warehouse; she went and came, but apparently the material wasn't good enough for me, because the Chinese leader scolded the girl and sent her back to get WHAT HE SAID BEFORE. In the meanwhile, we talked a little, and he stayed with me for about an hour or so. He provided me the finest material he had at disposal at the moment...

And all that was for about 20 Euros, (about 30$). Probably, it was just more because I asked it kindly and the right way than anything else.

But my record of good relationships with Chinese people living there isn't by any mean limited to this.

So, what happened there yesterday? What caused this uproar?

Facts are under investigation, but the most authoritative versions are:
1) City Police version: at about 9:30 a fine for abusive transportation of commercial material has been given to a Chinese woman carrying some goods she was bringing to her shop. At about 12:00 the woman, recognizing the (female) City Police Officer has run after her and hit her with a punch; while the patrol tried to run after the Chinese shopkeeper and to block her, some other Chinese people has run out from blind spots with cameras to record the fact. Then the riot rose.

2) Chinese version: at about 11:30 the Chinese shoopkeper woman was carrying her goods without due permission, and so was fined. As she refused to pay (which, btw, in Italy is possible i.e. you can pay after, via post checks), the Police agents tried to carry her on a car; she opposed resistance as she was with her 2 year old kid, and she didn't want her kid to be taken away. The opposition was hard and the police was harder. Seen this, people naturally came out to defend her; police reaction was hard, and Chinese people reaction was harder.

Probably, truth is somewhere in the middle; and anyhow, is not that important. What is known to be true is that, from several months ago up to date, City Police has begun giving massive fines for abusive transport of commercial goods (and that's right), and also for abusive occupation of public soil while moving goods (this MUCH more controversial. Many attorney are currently judging this fines totally void).

Chinese population of the area is considering that discrimination, as Italian traders in the are were not fined with the same... intensity. Pitifully, I must admit that this can now be considered a "fact", as many reports (written by Italian students experimenting on the field, also with hidden cameras), demonstrated that this was actually the case.

But that's just half side of the medail.

What is also true is that the Chinese communities in Italy, and especially the one in that area, are particularly closed and self referential. In example, we have never seen (registered, actually) a single funeral of a Chinese inhabitant. Now, it's well known that Chinese people is long-lived, but they are not immortal. The more-than-suspect is that they recycle identity of dead people to drive illegal immigration. And the worse thing is that, when asked about this "detail", official Chinese institutions usually reply with something as "what we do with our corpses is not matter of Italy" (I personally heard THIS reply out of the mouth of the Chinese Consul in Italy, on a radio interview). Not exactly the arguments we would expect to start a serene dialog on the topic.

Chinese people there sells goods to Italians, but they don't buy from Italians. Food, dresses, furnitures, any kind of goods is strictly imported from China, and never bought outside the community. We have also sparse (or none) account of Chinese children in that precise community, and we don't know about the fact of their children being properly instructed in authorized schools.

Of course, the Chinese living there, taken one by one, have no fault. In example, a Chinese man about 60 was interviewed by the TV today. He wore a hat with the 「勇」(courage) ideogram, and he said...

- People here don't know exactly what they're up to.
- Why?
- Well, because they're Chinese.
- But you're Chinese too!
- Yes, I am. But I am also Italian!

The point is that our authorities are not moving in the right direction to resolve this situation. People coming here from China is often "taken" into this self-referential loops by criminal organizations. Instead of protecting the people honestly working here, and forcing the "big ones" to respect our laws and our customs, they are harassing them with useless (and ill-applied) regulations. No wonder the people living here thinks they are in immediate danger, and the only one willing to protect them are... actually the ones enslaving them.

But I am a bit worried. On a wallpaper appeared today in Paolo Sarpi Street; I couldn't read the Chinese in that, as it was just shot by a TV troop, but it had the photos of the 5 wounded Chinese. Not a single shot of one of the 14 heavily injured policemen.

Confucius was the one indicating the TAO as the way of REN 仁, that is, learning the way of reciprocity. "Treat others as you'd like to be treated".

Chinese government has hastily urged Italy to behave responsibly towards Chinese citizen living abroad, and the Chinese consul stated that the "incident was not random". Well, I would urge the Chinese government to have a second reading at Confucius, as I don't feel like my country, universally known as hospital and forgiving, has anything to learn from the ones having ordered Tien An Men.

The day after, not a single person in the Sarpi community has been sued. Instead, we're all asking ourselves how we can help those people to feel more Italian, and to feel more at home. I doubt this could have happened in any other country of the world. In particular, I really believe (and I am supported by facts in the news) that if 300 Italians were to injury 14 Chinese policemen in China, be them wrong or right, they would be all dead by now (or jailed up for good). And for sure, no one would try to see what could be done to ease the situation.

To think that 仁 "Ren" is a Chinese word...


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