Police are investigating a possible hate crime after racist graffiti was spray painted on a wall at the Chinese Consulate in downtown Calgary early Wednesday.
Three people dressed in black and wearing masks approached the building on Sixth Avenue S.W. at 3:30 a.m., and spray painted a vulgar message before leaving, police said.
It was the second time this month the consulate has been targeted with graffiti. Another message was spray painted in front of the building on May 19.
The Chinese Consulate General turned over surveillance video captured by closed-circuit TV to police, who have released images of the suspects.
The graffiti included the phrase "China Virus." There have been reports of increased racism and hate-motivated crimes targeting the Chinese community and people of Asian descent during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The pandemic has led to a lot of political debate and strong views, and people are obviously free to hold whatever view they wish," said Const. Craig Collins, hate crimes co-ordinator with the Calgary police. "But when people are targeting others for ill treatment or committing crimes because of those views, we have a duty to get involved."
Police said there has been a slight increase in incidents targeting those groups.
"Generally, we have not seen the same spike in hate crimes that some other areas have seen," Collins said. "But we are hearing from the Chinese community that they are concerned about growing hostility, so we are monitoring it closely."
Police said hate-motivated crimes are crimes where the offender was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on certain personal characteristics of the victim, like race. Hate as a motivation is considered after a person is found guilty, during sentencing.
The consulate said in a statement that it strongly condemns the insult and threat, which it said violate both international and Canadian laws.
"The Consulate General encourages the police to solve this case as soon as possible, and take necessary measures to better protect the safety and dignity of the Consulate, its staff and its properties," a consulate spokesperson said in an emailed statement.