Vancouver man charged with promoting hate in relation to racist graffiti in Richmond

·5 min read
A man was caught on closed-circuit camera in May 2021 scrawling racist graffiti on a poster in Richmond. The suspect is alleged to be Chao Wang, a Vancouver resident in his 60s. (YouTube - image credit)
A man was caught on closed-circuit camera in May 2021 scrawling racist graffiti on a poster in Richmond. The suspect is alleged to be Chao Wang, a Vancouver resident in his 60s. (YouTube - image credit)

A Vancouver man in his 60s is facing a rare charge of promoting hate in relation to allegations he scrawled racist graffiti on a poster of a Black model outside an optical store in Richmond.

A Crown prosecutor told a bail hearing for Chao Wang last week that Wang was allegedly caught on closed-circuit video in May 2021 vandalizing a public advertisement.

"The ad shows a Black male modelling some sunglasses," prosecutor David Meagher told a judge as a Mandarin interpreter translated the accusations for Wang.

"Mr. Wang drew what appears to be a rope of a belt around the neck of the male model as well as a swastika."

Meagher said Wang also allegedly wrote "some Chinese characters" which have been translated as advocating violence against Black people.

'I only slapped her once'

Although many bail hearings are covered by publication bans, Wang — who insisted on representing himself after firing his previous lawyer — did not ask for any type of ban on reporting.

Meagher said Wang is also the subject of a charge that has not been approved yet by Crown counsel in relation to racist graffiti in Nanaimo.

Vancouver Police Department
Vancouver Police Department

He's currently in custody facing a series of charges, including the alleged assault of an 80-year-old woman last May at the senior's centre where they both live on the Downtown Eastside.

Meagher said the woman complained to a staff member about the volume of Wang's music, at which point Wang allegedly showed up and "punched her in the face."

Police attended and Wang allegedly bit one of the officers in the arm — leading to a charge of assaulting a peace officer.

At the bail hearing, Wang repeatedly interrupted Meagher to complain about the length of time it had taken to bring his case to court.

He also told the judge he wanted to plead guilty and ignored her warnings about saying something in court that might be used against him in relation to the alleged assault.

"I only slapped her once," Wang said at one point.

"I want to emphasize one thing. The neighbour that I struck was not a white person. It was a Cantonese person. I would not be hitting a Caucasian person because they would not be harming me."

'Profound impact'

Wang was charged under Section 319 of the Criminal Code — one of two provisions specifically designed to counter hate speech.

He's one of only four people in B.C. who have been charged in the past two years under the rarely used section — despite calls from advocates for a more muscular legal approach to a rising number of anti-Asian attacks.

YouTube
YouTube

Two of the other cases came to light as a result of releases from police — but the other two, including the charges against Wang — have only come to attention through the province's daily court appearance lists.

In February, Kelowna resident Kibwe Ngoie-Ntombe was handed a 12-month conditional sentence after pleading guilty to wilfully promoting hate in a series of online videos attacking a Congolese ethnic group.

The other high-profile case involved Yves Castonguay, a Vancouver man sentenced to 240 days last December for scrawling racist graffiti on Vancouver's Chinese Cultural Centre in 2020.

Although Castonguay was originally charged under Section 319, that charge was stayed after he pleaded guilty to mischief motivated by bias, prejudice or hate, under a different section of the Code that can result in a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Cultural Centre director Bill Kwok provided a victim impact statement to the court in that case.

"[Castonguay's] comments caused staff members and volunteers and visitors to feel unsafe, unwanted, and feeling as if their lives held little value," the judge who sentenced Castonguay said.

"Mr. Kwok also notes that the profound impact of hurt and loss of this conduct has also spilled over to all Chinese persons or all persons of Asian background or descent."

The judge in that case was of the view that "it is time for sentencing judges to take into account the profound impact these kinds of criminal acts have on members of vulnerable communities."

Mental health issues

CBC discovered another of the four Section 319 charges in June 2020 against a Métis man with a history of substance use and apparent mental health issues.

At the time, Jonathan Michael Brennan's lawyer questioned the use of a hate charge against a man who had himself been the victim of systemic racism.

The charge was ultimately stayed, and Brennan instead pleaded guilty to mischief motivated by bias, prejudice or hate. He was given one day in jail and credited for 18 more served pre-trial.

Meagher also raised Wang's mental health concerns while laying out the reasons the Crown felt he should be denied bail.

He has missed numerous court appearances and has also been charged with throwing a hunting knife at bird in Richmond. Witnesses also claimed he had been making "finger guns" at children.

"Based alone on the four files and the record before the court, Mr. Wang would need a significant plan to address his mental health issues," Meagher said.

"I do not believe there are any conditions that can be imposed that will satisfy the court that Mr. Wang will attend court in the future."

The judge refused to release Wang pending trial. None of the charges against him have been proven in court. His next court date is April 26.

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