The World & I covers another episode in the sectarian war in Northern Ireland that has claimed 3,500 lives already:
Selina Lee was driving home from her family's Five Star Take-away with her ten-year-old daughter when a masked man leaped out of the shadows and fired two shots at her car. One bullet penetrated the windshield and hit forty-year-old Lee in the chest. Despite the pain she managed to drive to a police station, where an ambulance was called.
Soft-spoken Lee was yet another victim of Northern Ireland's "Troubles," an oddly polite term for more than thirty years of bitter sectarian violence and murder. What set the assault apart was her race. She is Chinese. In all the years of misery endured in the United Kingdom's offshore killing zone, she is the only Chinese immigrant to be on the wrong end of a bullet. Indeed, it was later claimed that the shooting was a mistake: the bullet was intended for her Irish driver, who was off-duty that night.
Her shooting more than a decade ago shocked a community already hardened to arbitrary shoot-outs, but Hong Kong--born Lee was determined to stay on. "Most people at the restaurant are Irish, and the Irish people are generally all right," she says. "When I first arrived here it was quiet and friendly, so I think I'll stay. Why not?"
Lee moved to Belfast twenty-seven years ago to join her husband. She works nine hours a day, six days a week, in the family restaurant in the mainly Protestant Antrim Road. On Sundays, she teaches Cantonese for two hours. Apart from the fact of her shooting, Lee is, in demeanor and industry, typical of the immigrant community.
Given the size of the Chinese community in Northern Ireland, Chinese is now the second most widely spoken language, according to the most recent census returns. As a visible and successful minority, the Chinese are subject to acts of discrimination and violence. This happens in many countries around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. But things have gotten so far in Northern Ireland, according to The Guardian, that this amounts to systematic ethnic cleansing.
Not far from the red, white and blue paving stones, the Ku Klux Klan graffiti and the "Chinks out" notices scratched outside south Belfast Chinese takeaways, Hua Long Lin was at home watching television when a man burst in and smashed a brick into his face. His wife, also in the room, was eight months pregnant. The couple had moved into the terrace two weeks before.
Neighbours expressed regret but one white family told a community worker they couldn't offer a Chinese family friendship in public or they would be "bricked" too.
"It's like Nazi Germany," they explained.
Northern Ireland, which is 99% white, is fast becoming the race-hate capital of Europe. It holds the UK's record for the highest rate of racist attacks: spitting and stoning in the street, human excrement on doorsteps, swastikas on walls, pipe bombs, arson, the ransacking of houses with baseball bats and crow bars, and white supremacist leaflets nailed to front doors.
Over 200 incidents were reported to police in the past nine months, although many victims don't bother complaining any more.
But in the past weeks, fear has deepened. Protestant working-class neighbourhoods are showing a pattern of orchestrated house attacks aimed at "ethnically cleansing" minority groups.
It is happening in streets run by loyalist paramilitaries, where every Chinese takeaway owner already pays protection money and racists have plentiful access to guns. The spectre of Catholics being systematically burnt out of similar areas during the Troubles hangs in the air.
And how do you think that the ethnic cleansing can be stopped? Could it be tougher anti-racist laws that will be vigorously enforced? No, the world waits instead for the one and only thing that is known to work in Northern Ireland.
But most of all, Belfast waits for the loyalist paramilitary leadership, which controls the working-class communities and young lads who live in fear of punishment beatings, to make a statement or move which shows the attacks will not be tolerated.
But the true reason for this post is because of a link in Portadown News to the EastSouthWestNorth blog, with the annotation: "One of the best weblogs on the net: eclectic, informed and original. Guaranteed no Northern Ireland content." I don't want to change the former but I have just rectified the latter.