Belize: Treatment of ethnic Chinese in Belize, 1995-May 2000
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||18 May 2000|
|Citation / Document Symbol||BLZ34380.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Belize: Treatment of ethnic Chinese in Belize, 1995-May 2000, 18 May 2000, BLZ34380.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ad3d20.html [accessed 18 June 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
No reports on a specific treatment of ethnic Chinese by authorities or the general population in Belize could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
The United States Department of State has repeated, in its Country Reports editions covering from 1995 up to and including 1999, the following statement:
Belize is a multiracial, multiethnic country, and the Government actively promotes tolerance and cross-cultural understanding. Discrimination on ethnic or religious grounds is illegal and rare, although ethnic tension, particularly resentment of recently arrived Central American and Asian immigrants, continued to be a problem (Sec. 5, 1996-2000).
Since Country Reports 1996 the publication has included the statement:
The Government continues to reserve certain professions for citizens, granting permits and licenses to noncitizens only in specific cases. These occupations include fishing, souvenir manufacturing, sightseeing tours, accounting, insurance, real estate, and legal services (ibid. 1997-2000).
Various news reports refer to ethnic tensions and resentment towards immigrants in Belize, although mostly a result of a large influx of Central American Spanish-speaking Catholics who are displacing the native black English-speaking protestant population, much of which has been in turn migrating to the United States. In 1995 Belize was reported to have changed to a Spanish-speaking Catholic majority with 44 per cent of the approximately 200,000 inhabitants, while "Protestant Afro-Creoles" fell to minority status with 38 per cent of the population (Latinamerica Press 12 Oct. 1995, 2). The report states that "the growing poverty, breakdown of the family structure and demographic changes have led to serious problems in urban areas" and that the arrival of numerous refugees from Guatemala and El Salvador "has led to growing racial tensions" (ibid.). However, the available report does not refer to ethnic Chinese and does not mention them as one of the two other significant minorities (Mayans and Garifunas) (ibid.).
A 1996 report on the tension created by the Spanish-speaking immigration states that "in addition, the government handed out passports and land grants to wealthy Asians wanting to settle in an English-speaking country near the United States. Chinese from Hong Kong and Taiwan began selling land to their compatriots" (Houston Chronicle 26 Aug. 1996). The report adds that this "hasn't created that much tension but it did take people's minds off the Hispanic issue" (ibid.).
In late-1997, a Belize magazine reported on the case of a Chinese businessman who shot dead an escaped fugitive who had attempted to rob him, stating that he was "one of a number of Chinese businesspeople who have been attacked in Belize City by street thugs in recent weeks" (Belize First 30 Nov. 1999). The robber was shot after reportedly shooting twice at the Chinese businessman, who in turn was later "praised by members of the local Chinese community for fighting back" (ibid.). The Creole robber and two other escaped convicts were also linked to the death of a cab driver on the same night, and were suspected of killing a butane gas deliveryman and wounding his partner before (ibid.).
Belize First also reports that some Chinese shopkeepers continued to be the targets of crime:
At least 56 murders occurred in Belize from August 1998 to July 1999, according to a study by BELIZE FIRST, a rate almost three times higher than that in the United States. But the good news, if there is any, is that most murders were related to drug and gang disputes or involved arguments among family members, friends or co-workers. Among the exceptions were a series of rape/murders of young girls in Belize District, still unsolved, (see separate article), the shooting of Chinese shopkeepers in Belize City, the ambushing and shooting of a Coca-Cola driver on the Old Northern Highway, and the murder of a British volunteer worker last August in Stann Creek District (ibid. 12 Mar. 2000).
Reporting on specific incidents of early 1999 Belize First had earlier reported:
Chinese businesses continue to be victimized by Belize City hoodlums. At least three Chinese business owners have been killed in recent weeks. The latest victim, Li Ron Chong, a popular grocer on Jasmine Street in the tough Martin de Porres neighborhood, was killed in a robbery in late March, while his 7-year-old son looked on. His wife was struck across the head with a butt of a gun by one of three masked and black-clothed men. The Chinese community has charged that Belize City police have been ineffective in preventing crime against Chinese-owned stores. They point to a series of robberies, burglaries, attacks and murders, most allegedly by Creole men, going back several years. Police have arrested several Belize City men in connection with this and other crimes against Chinese businesses (18 Jan. 2000).
Another recent report refers to prejudice and discrimination, although mostly against Spanish-speaking Central Americans, stating that "newcomers are confronted by hostile natives who accuse them of taking away jobs, importing crime and replacing English with Spanish as the most important language" and adding that "Belize is beginning to suffer immigration-related strains somewhat like those afflicting parts of the United States" (The Houston Chronicle 17 Jan. 1999). However, the report indicates that "the key to the new discrimination appears to be language and culture rather than race" (ibid.). The report states that "those who were born here are resentful of those who arrive as immigrants," adding that "even some Belizean Hispanics admit they are prejudiced against Hispanic immigrants" (ibid.).
Background on the ethnic and cultural makeup of Belizean society can be found in "The Cultural Diversity of Belizean Society" and other chapters of Belize: A Country Study, researched in 1992 by the U.S. Library of Congress and available at
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Belize First Magazine [Belize]. 12 March 2000. "Roundup of News and Opinion about Belize and the Caribbean Coast."
_____. 18 January 2000. "News from Early 1999."
_____. 30 November 1999. "News From 1997."
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999. 25 February 2000. "Belize."
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998. 26 February 1999. "Belize." (Sharenet)
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. 30 January 1998. "Belize." (Sharenet)
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996. 30 January 1997. "Belize." (REFWORLD)
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1995. 30 January 1996. "Belize." (REFWORLD)
Houston Chronicle. 17 January 1999. Edward Hegstrom. "Immigrants to Belize Find Prejudice in Racially Mixed Land." (Central America NewsPak [Austin, Tex.] 4-17 Jan. 1999, Vol. 13, No. 24, pp. 2-3).
_____. 26 August 1996. Phil Gunson. "Belize Finds Melting Pot May Be Coming to a Boil." (Central America NewsPak [Austin, Tex.] 19 Aug.-1 Sep 1996, Vol. 11, No. 15, p. 2).
Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 12 October 1995. Vol. 27, No. 37. "Big Changes in a Little Country."
Additional Sources Consulted
Central America NewsPak [Austin, Tex.]. 1995-Apr. 2000.
Central America Report [Guatemala City]. 1995-Apr. 2000.
La Nación [San José]. 1995-May 2000.
La Prensa [Tegucigalpa]. May 1996-May 2000.
Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 1995-April 2000.
Latin American Regional Reports: Central America & the Caribbean [London]. 1995-Apr. 2000.
Internet Search Engines.
This list is not exhaustive. Country-speicifc publications available at the Resource Centre are not included.