Restaurants in Montreal’s Chinatown are meeting a recent deluge of vandalism, break-ins, and anti-Asian sentiment in the area with a dose of sweetness: a fortune cookie containing anti-racist messaging.
Dobe & Andy, Beijing, and Fung Shing are among the dozen or so restaurants in Chinatown dispensing the fortune cookies, whose messages printed onto slivers of paper double as a 10 percent discount coupon for a future purchase. Examples of the sayings printed on the papers include: “The wise practice social distancing, not racial discrimination,” and “Discrimination hurts; solidarity cures.”
Last week, six stores in a small shopping mall in the area (Place du Quartier on St-Urbain) were vandalized and broken into, but nothing was stolen. “Pretty much everything around us was vandalized, but we didn’t get touched. I’m guessing it’s because the cameras are right there. It’s really sad to see this kind of thing happening so close to home,” says Eric Ku, one of the owners of Dobe & Andy, which is also located in the mall and is now distributing the fortune cookies.
Five thousand fortune cookies will be handed out under “Fortunes for Solidarity,” the name of the campaign announced by community leaders and politicians at a press conference in Chinatown this Saturday, October 31. In addition to combating the racism spurred by misinformation linking Chinese communities to the spread of the coronavirus, the fortune cookies’ accompanying discount is meant to help draw customers back into the economically devastated neighbourhood.
“There is no one in Chinatown right now; it is so quiet. I think that might be one of the reasons why people are vandalizing. The opportunity is just there for them,” Ku says.
This isn’t the first instance of vandalism in the area: At the start of the pandemic, the lion statues at Chinatown's entrances were defaced. Meanwhile, elderly members of Montreal’s Chinatown community have been on the receiving end of racial slurs and physical attacks, Bryant Chang, the vice-president of the Chinese Association of Montreal, tells CTV.
The fortune cookie campaign will run until November 23, when red zone lockdown measures are expected to be lifted, and coupons will be honoured until December 21.