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‘Heartbreaking’: Mural defaced in Vancouver’s Chinatown as graffiti spree persists

Click to play video: 'Chinatown businesses say combating graffiti through art not working'
Chinatown businesses say combating graffiti through art not working
Community members in Chinatown are once again demanding more be done to stop graffiti on walls and alleyways in their neighbourhood. It comes after a monumental mural in an East Georgia alley was hit with a massive tag, effectively ruining the artwork. Kristen Robinson reports – Mar 23, 2022

An alley containing mural art between East Georgia and Union streets that was an oasis from the endless graffiti infiltrating Vancouver’s Chinatown has been targeted by vandals.

This past weekend, an artwork commissioned by the City of Vancouver in 2019 as part of the Chinatown Mural Program was defaced by graffiti taggers.

“It’s heartbreaking to see this,” Sean Cao with the Bagua Artist Association told Global News.

“We poured our love to the community into making and maintaining this mural.”

Cao and Katharine Yi spent more than two weeks painting the original mural, which was one of the first in Chinatown.

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The pair had just finished repairing some minor graffiti damage on the work two weeks ago, and was not prepared for such a blatant assault on their art.

Click to play video: 'Chinatown leaders take safety concerns to Vancouver Police Board'
Chinatown leaders take safety concerns to Vancouver Police Board

“Seeing this degree of vandalism really hurt,” Cao said.

The mural, Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea, is based on a well-known Chinese folktale.

In the context of migration, the eight immortals depicted in the mural can be seen as representations and celebrations of diversity in the people who make up Vancouver’s Chinatown.

The story is also an allegory about how each person can overcome adversities in life.

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“It’s just heartbreaking to see our work, which is so packed with a message about inclusiveness and diversity, be destroyed like this,” Yi, also with the Bagua Artist Association, told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Chinatown graffiti vandals rarely caught or prosecuted'
Chinatown graffiti vandals rarely caught or prosecuted

The vandalism is just the latest instance of graffiti targeting the city’s historic Chinatown, and the legacy business owner whose wall was tarnished says he is gutted.

“I am very, very upset,” Peter Lau, owner of Liang You Book Co. Ltd., said.

“It’s disheartening, yet again,” added Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden executive director Lorraine Lowe, who shared a photo of the destruction on social media.

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Until now, the art that had replaced graffiti in this alley had been left almost untouched, and the community is wondering what happened to the street code among taggers to respect murals.

“Maybe the myth has been debunked and this was just done for the hell of it,” Lowe told Global News.

“There needs to be some sort of message that this sort of thing should not be tolerated and there are consequences for these actions.”

Click to play video: 'Vancouver’s Chinatown continues to be plagued by vandalism'
Vancouver’s Chinatown continues to be plagued by vandalism

Lau said he’s frustrated that taggers are allowed to continually make their mark with little to no punishment, while he and other business owners pay property taxes.

“How come the city [doesn’t] charge them?” he said.
“How come the city is [doing] nothing?”
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John Atkin with the Chinese Canadian Historical Society suggested restorative justice could be among the solutions if taggers are caught.

“When it reaches something like this, where it’s intentional vandalism and destruction, then there has to be something done with it,” Atkin said.

The City of Vancouver told Global News it is currently working with the property owner, the mural artists and graffiti removal services to remove the graffiti.

“This just can’t stand,” said Atkin. “It hurts.”

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