Asian-American business leaders push for FBI investigation after man killed in Durham

Asian-American business owners met with Durham leaders this week to express their concerns about thieves targeting them and to make some demands after the killing of a Chinese restaurant owner.

Eleven organizations, including the Chinese-American Friendship Association of North Carolina, United Chinese Americans and the Chinese School at Chapel Hill, had sent a letter to Durham's mayor on April 26.

In the letter, the groups said:

They want Durham to ask the FBI to open an investigation into the death of Hong Zheng, who was killed in his Durham driveway April 15.

They want Durham officials and Police Chief C.J. Davis to meet with “surviving members of the victim's family and community leaders to provide timely updates regarding the investigation."

They want Asian-American leaders and Zheng's family to be invited to participate in the “special task force with intention of finding a solution” to the targeting of Asian businesses and owners.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said the meeting, which also included the city manager and two city council members, went well.

Jianping Yang, board chairman for the Chinese-American Friendship Association of N.C., agreed. “In general, most people are very pleased with the meeting – for the most part," he said.

Yang said the Asian-American community members who attended felt reassured that authorities are seriously and sincerely addressing crimes targeting their ethnic group.

Many restaurant owners don't finish work until after 10 p.m., Yang said, which can make it tough to formally meet with police. He said he was told that Durham police will accommodate their needs when scheduling educational outreach programs on topics such as best practices for handling money.

“Our concern is that these Asian-American merchants are often carrying a lot of cash,” Schewel said. “We'll continue talking to them about how they might bank and about being safe with their cash.”

Schewel declined to say whether the FBI is involved in the investigation of Zheng's death. Police made an arrest in the case.

“I will say that our police and other local police departments are involved with investigating this matter,” he said.

N.C. Rep. Marcia Morey said Zheng's family asked her to attend the meeting.

“It gave us a good understanding of the fears that they have,” Morey said.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks
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