Chinese Delivery Man Killed by Two Teenagers in NE Philly

2015/04/img_8565.jpg

2015/04/img_8562.jpg
The tracks left by Rendong Zheng’s Toyota. According to the police, after the gunshot, Mr. Zheng drove out of Hill Creek Apartments, a Philadelphia Housing Authority project, dashing across Adams Avenue onto a grass-covered lot.

updated Monday, April 27 at 3 pm

It is the misfortune for Philadelphia: a 49-year-old food delivery worker was shot in a robbery, and the suspects are two teenagers.

The victim, Rendong Zheng, was found unconscious with a gunshot wound Thursday night in Northeast Philadelphia. He was pronounced dead at hospital shortly after.

Mr. Zheng worked for New China Restaurant on Rising Sun Avenue, which closed its door the day after he died. According to the Police Department, at 10:37 pm, the police received a report of gunfire around Hill Creek Apartments in Crescentville, but the officers did not find anything at the scene. Meanwhile, a fire crew found Mr. Zheng’s car crashed through a fence of a vacant property at 500 Adams Avenue, right across the street from Hill Creek Apartments. Inside the car, the unconscious victim was suffering from a gunshot wound in his left shoulder. He was sent to Einstein Hospital and was pronounced dead at 11 pm.

The Homicide Unit later identified two suspects, Sahmir Walker, 14, and Taquail Duffy, 15. Both suspects were living in Hill Creek Apartments, where the police believe Mr. Zheng was shot. Walker was held without bail for murder, robbery, criminal conspiracy and other crimes. Duffy, held on a $250,000 bail, was charged with aggravated assault, intimidation, terroristic threats, violation of Uniform Firearms Act and other crimes.

The police believe the suspects intended to rob Mr. Zheng. Twelve shots were fired; one hit the victim, who tried to drive away from the horror but soon lost control of his car.

In the neighborhood where Mr. Zheng worked, people are not surprised by the incident. A neighboring pharmacist, who does not wish to share her name, told Metro Chinese Weekly that the area is bad at night.

“This is not the safest area in the city,” she said. “I guess during the day it is OK. But the area is really, really bad at night. People shouldn’t deliver food at such late time.”

The car-crashing site neighbors Rising Sun Plaza, a go-to place for Chinese grocery shoppers. Despite the hustle and bustle during the day, the streets on this area are known to have trouble at night.

“It happens,” a man who works at a pizza restaurant next to Mr. Zheng’s restaurant said. “But we are OK. It doesn’t matter to us.”

On WeChat, the popular social networking and messaging app among Chinese in Philadelphia, the discussion has been intense. Some shared their horrible moments of delivering food where the cutthroats lurking in the dark. Others are calling for actions against the rampant violent crimes in the city. In the past, the city implemented measures such as limiting business operating hours to keep people off the street at night, but some restaurant owners found the measure unpleasant because it crippled their businesses.

At this point, the Chinese community is looking at the next mayor for better solutions.

In an email response to Metro Chinese Weekly, mayoral candidate Doug Oliver reiterates the importance of providing city services in the language that the immigrants speak.

“We could have the best deterrent programs in the world, but if our immigrant population doesn’t know what’s available to them, it’s of little value,” he wrote.

Oliver promises to “invest heavily” in training police officers to better understand the cultural differences among Philadelphians.

Other mayoral candidates, such as Jim Kenney and Anthony H. Williams, have recently released their plans to improve the public safety. More details will be shared in this post.

Terry Tracy, Republican candidate for City Council, felt that the Council race has not been paying enough attention to public safety.

“I have been to so many forums since the campaign, but the candidates haven’t talked too much about public safety, which is an important matter and should be the basic thing in this race,” he said.

On his view of whether businesses should or should not operate at late hours, Tracy thought the best solution is to help businesses earn enough revenue so that they do not have to strife at dangerous hours.

What Do Chinese Corner Store Owners Say about Philly’s Cigarette Tax Hike?

Two months ago, the City of Philadelphia began levying a two-dollar-per-pack cigarette tax to fund the public schools. This measure turns out to be quite painful to some Chinese restaurant owners.

by Bole Yuan and Haojun Liu

In some areas of Philadelphia, the only businesses standing might as well be the Chinese takeout restaurants, or Chinese corner stores. In addition to quick meals, snackages and soft drinks, most of them sell cigarettes to diversify their revenue. We randomly picked 45 stores and asked them if they felt any impact since the cigarette tax increase was implemented. Eight of them, all from different zip codes, agreed to share their views.

Please note that all of them spoke on the condition of anonymity. We then refer them with their neighborhoods.

To begin with, most Chinese corner stores now sell a pack of Newport for $9. It was $7 before.

We asked: Is there any change to the sale of cigarette since the tax increased?

“A bit of decline, but it’s OK. Some customers say they would purchase cigarettes elsewhere.” – Owner of A Restaurant in Kingsessing/West Philladelphia

A restaurant owner in North Philly said she probably saw seven or eight cartons less in monthly sale, while the gross revenue of his restaurant was down for over a thousand dollars. “Customer who used to buy cigarettes here also bought other things, like sodas,” she said. “Now they don’t buy anything.”

Another North Philly restaurant owner said he used to sell five to six packs per day “when it’s cheaper.”

“Now we can only sell two or three packs per day,” he said. “Some people would cursed at the price and claimed that gas stations have cheaper cigarettes. Since there are many competitors around here, many customers will go to those owned by the Americans. We can only make a little money after everybody else has closed for the day; otherwise, we can never survive.”

“In a shop like this, we have been suffering from sleep deprivation already,” he added.

Another women who owns a restaurant in Kensington said the cigarette price is too expensive for her customer. “We can only count on selling more food,” she said.

“No one wants it.” – Owner of a restaurant in Tioga.

This restaurant owner has a lot to say about his experience selling cigarettes.

“It was quite an impact, though the sale has been dismal all along,” he said of the recent tax increase. In addition, he claimed that the police failed to stop people from selling loose cigarettes, which is illegal in Pennsylvania.

“Our business is not allowed to sell loose cigarettes; we have to sell pack by pack, not the single ones,” he said. “The police did nothing to stop them. If the government allows us to sell loose cigarettes, we can have more revenue and therefore pay more tax.”

Loose cigarette is indeed a sensitive topic right now: if the authorities in New York City had allowed people to sell loose cigarettes, Eric Garner might not die. However, we are not going to speculate the rationale behind the law. What we want to know is whether this restaurant owner’s claim about the leniency in loose cigarette control is addressed, and whether the cigarette tax increase has anything to do with it.

We contacted the Police Department, the department of Licenses and Inspections and the Mayor’s Office. Mayor’s Press Secretary Mark McDonald told us that neither the police or the L&I have the answer for us. The enforcement of the law is conducted by the state’s Department of Revenue. So far we are still waiting for them to respond. (And, yes, we have to say: To be continued.)

 

 

 

 

A Student from China and The Beauty of Philly

What if we tell you that the guy behind a popular Philadelphia Facebook page is a high school student from China?  

This is the first try of us translating our own stories. The original reporting of this story is done in Chinese by Hua Zong, who is going to graduate in December 2014 from Temple University with a B. A. in journalism. In Metro Chinese Weekly’s “Our Stories, Your Choice,” people voted to read it in English, and here it is.

Thank you for showing your interest, Philadelphia.

By Hua Zong and Bole Yuan

Street photography was accentuated in recent years by Brandon Stanton, a self-learned photographer behind the big-name Facebook page “Humans of New York (HONY).” Quoting pleasant chatters along with photographic sketches of the people in NYC, Stanton brought people’s appearances and their inner worlds to a test, and the result whatsoever keeps us confident in humanity. Since April, someone claims Philadelphia as a new test ground. In November, the “Humans of Philadelphia” page on Facebook has already gained 4000 likes.

Unlike Stanton, who might have seen more of life through losing a job in bond trading, the photographer behind Humans of Philadelphia is a 18-year-old high school student from China.

 

martin luo 2

10516825_334631163386499_167940031650216912_n

From Humans of Philadelphia:
“What’s your scariest moment in your life?”
“I almost got shot.”
“What happened?”
“I grew up in West Philly. The neighborhood was pretty rough. One day, I was sitting on the porch with other friends. Some guy on the street just pulled out of his gun and shot us. “
“Why you?”
“Oh no, I was not the target. Someone who sat with me had some issues. Luckily, no one got hurt. “

 

Above: Hua Zong captured how Martin got the story of a subject.  

Below: Martin’s work.

 

Yuanxin Luo, who goes by “Martin,” is spending his third year in the US and the second year in Abington Friends School. Each weekend, Luo will leave his host family in Jenkingtown for a photo safari in Philly neighborhoods such as Rittenhouse Square and Washington Square. Generally, he looks for people who have a knack at dressing up. Sometimes people with unusual hair styles walk into his lens, too.

“I really, really like street photography in Europe and in America,” Luo said. One of his hobbies is to read photo blogs on street fashion. “Photography was like something I have always dreamed to do.”

martin luo

Last semester, he took his first photography lesson, filling a tight spot left by a classmate who dropped, and bought his first DSLR camera. But when he finally set up his first Philly trip with his photography teacher, Donna Russo, he felt nervous.

“It wasn’t easy for me to talk with strangers,” he said. “My teacher was by my side.”

Realizing Luo had never been in any part of the city other than Chinatown, Russo decided to take him to LOVE Park, and then the courtyard of City Hall, and then Rittenhouse Square. Walking through various social scenes at the center of Philadelphia, Luo became more and more enthralled. Encouraged by his teacher, he started to engage the people on the street.

“If he was nervous he didn’t really show it,” Russo said in an email. “It was so much fun for me to watch him ‘at work’ as he mingled, talked and shot people — all kinds of people!”

QQ截图20141110145602

Luo would sometimes ask the subject to recollect his scariest moment in life. In one of his earliest posts, a subject talked about twisting his ankle in wrestling. In a more recent post, another subject shared his story of “almost get shot” in West Philly.

“Conventional thinking” would simply assume it unlikely that a non-native English speaker like Luo could capture meaningful snippets. But he can. He manages to jot down intimate moments of life such as the first date of lovers, the witness of childbirth by parents and the farewell to the deceased. According to Luo, he learned a lot from reading novels and living with an American host family. But perhaps what helps most is the exposure to life he gets from portraying Philadelphians.

One of Luo’s tricks of getting good subjects is to show up in festive events, and Philadelphia has quite a few, such as Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival in late spring and Midtown Fest in fall.  “People dress up at festivals,” he said. To his satisfaction, Luo captured fashion and spirits in all seasons.

In fact, Luo’s Facebook page is the second one that bears “Humans of Philadelphia” in its title. Last year Philadelphia Inquirer profiled Chuck Putnam, a 71-year-old amateur photographer who created “Humans of Philadelphia: Honoring our human diversity thru photography.” Both photographers are exploring the city with their enthusiasm towards photography and the diversity in Philadelphia.

“If I can run into a street without traffic, and if I could have the fortune to meet a cool guy on a skateboard, it will be perfect!” Luo said, picturing a scenario. “I will ask him to pose in the middle of that street, and I will snap that photo.”

“There is always someone on the street who can touch my heart,” Luo said. “Who can make me to have the desire for their stories. And in the end, everyone has different stories to share.”

Pitch 1: Photography, Symphony, A Cappella or Guns?

In our first try to pitch stories to the generous Philadelphians, we were quite grateful that so many people participated. Here is the pitch, in case you missed it:

We got 92 responses to this pitch, and 61 showed their interest in Humans of Philadelphia. Thank you all for the great editorial assistance! We will post that story very soon!

 

The Last Call before the Election

While the conclusion of the 2014 Pennsylvania gubernatorial race seems so imminent, the young Asian American political activists are making the last call for power.

by Yuxuan Jia and Bole Yuan

The political apathy hurts feelings.

According to Asian Americans United, an advocacy group, in every 10 phone calls they made to potential Chinese voters in their latest “Chinatown Vote” initiative, three recipients would refuse to vote; in every 10 encounters they had with potential voters on the street, two voters would say no to their faces.

“In America, if you want something, you have to earn it by yourself,” said Xu Lin of Asian Americans United.

His organization has been running an intensive campaign to encourage Chinese Philadelphians to vote since June. Till last week, the campaign volunteers had done six rounds of what they call “tabling” – volunteers setting up tables on the street for interviewing and enlisting potential voters. They were also mobilizing forces on multiple frontiers, knocking doors and making phone calls to people who otherwise hear nothing about the election.

“While in whole the voter turnout rate in Philadelphia is low, we think it is an opportunity for Asians to be heard and their impact amplified, if more of them can vote,” said Lin.

“You can’t ignore the contribution that local Chinese people have made to taxes and jobs, since many of them are running successful businesses,” said Lin. “However, in Philadelphia alone, the resource that they get from the society accounts for merely 0.07 percent of the whole. Our analysis finds that their inactiveness towards politics and election is the reason.”

IMG_4343

(Youth organizer Wei Chen is urging a potential Chinese voter to go to a polling station after work. Photo/Bole Yuan)

Lin believed the only way to give local Chinese people a fairer share is to do so through political involvement: if more Chinese people vote on November 4, those who will be elected are more likely to listen to them.

In his team, the volunteers were originally asked to contribute a small portion of their time into the campaign. In reality, their weekly workloads often exceeded 20 hours. Fortunately, many students who heard of the effort asked to join. The team ended up having eight adults and 30 youths, most of whom are high school students born to immigrant parents.

“It’s a good opportunity for them to get a pre-voting experience,” said Wei Chen, Asian Americans United’s youth organizer. “These young immigrants will be able to participate in elections in the future.”

Where are the Asian voters of Philadelphia?

In Philadelphia, Asians account for less than 7 percent of the population, a number that more or less puts them in limbo. It looks better than the state’s 2.7 percent, making Philadelphia a must-check place for insights into the well-being of Asians in Pennsylvania. But when it comes to who cuts the cake, 7 percent is insignificant; it is dwarf against the 37.7 percent of West Windsor, NJ, a town that elected the first and only Chinese American mayor in the Mid-Atlantic region.

To give Asians a higher ground in politics, data miners often group ethnic Asian communities together. However, this practice becomes problematic in elections, mostly because of the great linguistic and cultural diversity within the 7 percent. Election overseers find it hard to monitor each ethnic community; candidates fumble to set foot in this 7 percent, only to find it hard to establish a common ground in the discrepancies. In the end, as observers often conclude, each ethnic Asian community is left to decide their own fate.

As Metro Chinese Weekly reported on May 20, this year’s primary election day, only 38 people voted in the polling station of Chinatown, which had 1308 registered voters. It is unclear how many will show up on November 14.

“There was a senior citizen who came over during our first tabling for just looking,” Chen said. “The second time he asked what we were doing. He registered to vote in his third visit.”

Chen said some Chinese people were uncooperative with the young volunteers because they were unfamiliar with their cause. He believed more media coverage and persistent youth volunteerism will finally change it.

So far, the lack of accurate information about Chinese voters is the one of the biggest hurdles that Asian American political activists have encountered. Without knowing who the eligible Chinese American voters are, political activists are unable to pinpoint the people they want to reach. In late April, during an interview with Metro Chinese Weekly, Councilman David Oh identified that in Pennsylvania, the source of the problem has two folds: the law does not require voters to acknowledge their ethnicity, while some voters themselves do not wish to be profiled ethnically. Oh was organizing a voter registration drive then.

Asian Americans United and another advocacy group, Boat People SOS, used a labor-intensive method in their campaigns. They pulled data from the City Commissioners office and searched for people with common last names from Asia.

On October 27th, 500 people with Chinese last names picked up calls from Asian Americans United. Among them, 350 said they were interested in voting; 30 said they are voting; 40 said they might.

For the whole campaign, the volunteers initially had a goal to get 100 voter registration forms and reached 400 people through door-knocking. By last Wednesday they have collected 120 forms and knocked open 800 doors.

The result seemed promising to the young activists, as over 100 people said they would go to vote.

Continue reading →