Vancouver Chinatown Cleanup: Annual Event Aims to Restore Neighborhood

About 100 people with garbage bags and tongs in hand walked through Vancouver’s Chinatown on Saturday afternoon in an effort to clean up the neighborhood.

The annual Chinatown cleanup campaign, organized by the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Area Society and the Chinatown Merchants Association, aims to keep the neighborhood a “desirable and vibrant” place to visit, according to a written statement.

The event takes place amid ongoing struggles by small businesses and area residents who have faced rising anti-Asian hatred during the pandemic.

“Businesses are fighting every day,” said Vancouver Councilwoman Sarah Kirby-Yung, who was at the event.

“We have issues where sometimes older people are scared to walk through their own neighborhood.”

Volunteers paint over graffiti as part of the 2022 Chinatown Cleanup Campaign. (Shawn Foss/CBC News)

A few weeks ago, about a dozen volunteers helped restore a mural on the side of the Liang You Bookstore on East Georgia Street, which was defaced in late March.

In January, the exterior walls of the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden were spray-painted, while the windows of the nearby Chinese Cultural Center were smashed.

Jordan Eng, president of the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Area Society, says that while the neighborhood has struggled in recent years, he has noticed more families visiting the area as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

“It’s really good to see the streets start to fill up,” Eng said.

Eng says the large turnout for the cleanup shows that people care about the neighborhood.

Janssen Ong, one of the volunteers and executive director of the China Community Policing Center, says the event is important because it will help bring back the vitality of the neighborhood and restore the culture of Chinatown.

The center works together with the Vancouver Police Department, community partners and volunteers to reduce crime and improve safety in Chinatown.

Ong is also part of a new effort to regularly clean up the neighborhood.

The police center will launch a new pilot project in June with the goal of cleaning up graffiti in Chinatown.

He hopes there will be more volunteers coming to the neighborhood to help keep it clean.

“I think that would be really meaningful and nice.”

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