'Please take your dirty money and greed back to China': Asian-Canadian realtors in Penticton receive racist threats

Racist threat against realtors

"Please take your dirty money and greed back to China. If not, there will be consequences for you."

A racist threat sent to a pair of Asian-Canadian realtors with a listing in Penticton sadly did not shock the two men, who have been experiencing racialized backlash their whole lives. The incidents have only increased since the pandemic began.

Matt Zhang and Kevin Chen are selling 587 Vancouver Ave on behalf of the property's owner for $12.8 million. The property has been shortlisted for international luxury home awards, and boasts a lake view and modern design.

But their Asian last names attracted racist attention. Zhang and Chen received a threatening email this week from a person who identified themselves as "Spence Newton."

"We do not appreciate you bringing dirty laundered money to our little town. 12 million dollars for a f***ing house. You should be shot. You are f***ing up our local economy. You are pushing local people out, people who have grown up here can no longer afford to be here. People who have lived in Penticton for generations are not able to afford buying in our wonderful town," reads the message.

"Kevin Chen, you are not welcome in this province or country. Please leave. Please take your dirty money and greed back to China. If not, there will be dire consequences for you."

The message did not surprise Zhang.

"This has been something that has been rampant. It's nothing new, we've been dealing with it for years. I grew up in Vancouver, I came here when I was less than a year old. And ever since I was a kid, it wasn't as bad, but during the last year, it seems like it was a breaking point," Zhang said.

"People are no longer what I would call a 'closet racist' anymore. Some people were racists, but they were too scared to speak out, but now during COVID it feels like anyone who had a racist thought in their mind has spoken out."

Zhang said the email is just the latest in a string of comments on social media specifically mentioning his and Chen's race ever since the listing went live. It's ironic in his eyes because the owner of the home is caucasian — not that the race of a homeowner should matter, he added.

"It's just a stigma and an assumption that because it's expensive, because it's a little over the top, that there would be laundered money from Asia. Which is definitely not the case," Zhang said, explaining his client the homeowner was equally disgusted when he saw the email.

"We have a duty and a legal responsibility to verify our buyers' funds. We literally have to verify that the money is not going to be and is not laundered, we are on the line for it, it's our responsibility to make that judgement."

Zhang posted a screenshot of the email to his public Instagram story, fed up with staying silent about what he calls a persistent and unacceptable pattern of racism in Canada.

"It's something that I can't stand for. I've been quiet for a long time about this kind of issue, but it's gotten to a point that if you're going to start making death threats and this and that to my partner, I'm going to do anything I can to shed light on it," he said.

"Some people were brought up in a way to feel like if you're not white, you shouldn't be here. But Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, we're all immigrants here unless you're Native. Such an accepting, multicultural and diverse country has become one of the most racist places to live in the past year. It's honestly really sad."

Since this email contained a specific threat, Zhang went to the RCMP. He said they traced the IP to the United States, which suggests the author may have used a VPN to mask their true location. It is Zhang's belief the message came from "someone who is unhappy who lives in Penticton."

Castanet reached out to the email address provided by the message's author, which bounced back.

Zhang hopes enough is enough, and the stigma against and assumptions about Canadians of Asian descent will no longer be tolerated.

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