While struggling to keep its business going, a restaurant serving Chinese and other Asian cuisines in Seymour, Connecticut allegedly received death threats from racists blaming people of Chinese descent for the spread of COVID-19.
Ju Zheng and Xuemei Chen, owners of Sushi & Wok, reportedly picked up six calls between 11:50 a.m. and noon last Friday, which threatened to shoot them down.
Terrified, the owners contacted their daughter, Meng Zheng, for help.
Meng told NextShark that when she received that call from her parents, her “heart just sank,” adding that “it is exactly what I was afraid of. My parents do not speak English very well and for that reason, I knew it would be a challenge for them to defend themselves in the face of racism.”
Her parents told her that the callers “were talking and swearing in a frenzy. My mother heard ‘you f****** Chinese people’, ‘f****** kill you all.'”
Meng added that her “Uncle Ding, who was helping my parents out that day, took one of the calls and heard distinctly ‘Corona.’”
She left her job at Yale-New Haven Hospital and called the police on her parents’ behalf, explaining that there was a language barrier.
Two different area codes emerged from the calls — 860 and 662 — but police suspect the numbers were computer-generated.
“Originally it was just one number that was calling. My mother was getting very frustrated, so she hung up,” Meng told The Valley Indy. “They called back with a second number.”
Meng informed customers of the threats her parents had received in a Facebook post later that day.
“It has been a very difficult and trying time for many local businesses and restaurants. As we struggle to keep our business open, not only do we face the challenges of paying rent and dues, but we also deal with harassments from people who threaten to do harm to our employees and business. We got multiple calls today from callers who blame the pandemic on us, swearing and threatening to come in with arms and shoot the place down,” she noted.
Seymour Deputy Police Chief Roberto N. Rinaldi confirmed receiving a complaint from the restaurant and announced that it will be referred to the detective bureau for further investigation.
“Many people have no idea how difficult it is to continue operating a small restaurant with the constant fear that someone will come in and tear the place down,” Meng added. “There is no need to spread ignorance, hatred, and destruction in our community in a time like this. I appreciate you all for reading this and hope that no other take-out places have to go through what we did.”
Sushi & Wok has received a wave of supportive messages since the incident. Many also vowed to order takeout.
“This broke my heart to read. No one is immune to this virus; it does not discriminate. I think it’s fair to say it’s showing us all of us are equals. No one should be threatening anyone, least of all the people are working hard to continue to provide food to their community,” a patron commented under Meng’s post.
In an update Saturday, the restaurant announced that phone-in takeout services have been canceled due to staff and supply shortage. However, customers may continue to order through Grubhub and UberEats.
Meng reported that being on these apps has increased sales for her family’s restaurant. She also said that her parents have started to lock the door at work, even during the workday as a safety precaution.
As for police intervention, Meng told NextShark that the local police have followed up on the incidents and her parents haven’t received harassment calls since.
This article has been updated to include information and quotes from NextShark’s interview with the family.
Feature Images via Sushi & Wok