PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A window at the Lan Su Chinese Garden was found shattered overnight by a piece of slate from a guardian statue at Chinatown’s entrance – and those in the community say it was a targeted act of vandalism.

Portland police say these acts are not yet being investigated as a hate crime, but based on the timing and apparent connection, community leaders of Chinatown say they disagree. 

“People are pretty upset about this, because we suspect that it is a bias crime specifically targeting the Chinese community,” said Elizabeth Nye, the garden’s executive director.

Staff of the Lan Su Chinese Garden arrived Friday morning to find their window shattered by a slab of granite. Nye says she recognized the material matched the base of an iconic lion statue guarding the entrance of the historic neighborhood – about a quarter mile away.

“The fact that somebody at the front of Chinatown, broke off a piece of this iconic Chinatown gate, walked all the way to the end of Chinatown and specifically smashed our window with it sent a very clear message and people are very upset about it,” Nye said.

Nye said the timing of this crime is deeply troubling, as it came just one day before the Oregon Chinese Coalition’s annual Chinese Festival at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Festival MC Meilan Xu said that, amid increased attacks against the Asian American and Pacific iIlander community, the free event is a celebration of the beauty and resilience of Chinese culture. It features seven continuous hours of cultural performances – including traditional dance, martial arts, live music, food and more.

“There has been some target directed at AAPI groups, especially since the COVID pandemic,” Xu said. “However, events like this, where we get to showcase our culture, have been helping spread more awareness of the positive aspects of AAPI culture.” 

On Friday, the Portland Police Bureau sent KOIN 6 a statement about how they’re proceeding with their investigation: “Just to be clear, this case has not been determined to be a hate crime or hate incident, however we are continuing to investigate. The case’s classification could change should corroborating evidence be discovered.”

But considering the timing and material thrown, Nye says the evidence points to a targeted attack.

“We respectfully disagree with the Portland police assessment,” she said. “This crime involved two iconic places, located nearly a quarter mile apart, that are deeply meaningful to the Asian community. The people we’ve spoken to today are upset and afraid about what they believe to be an intentional and racially motivated act of destruction.”

While their window may be boarded up now, the gardens remain open.

The staff at Lan Su says the vandals could not break their spirit as they joined their community partners at the Chinese festival: “There’s been an increase in (and we’ve seen it over the last couple of years) of hate and bias crimes towards the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander community, and it’s unacceptable in our community. We’re doing the best we can to keep moving forward and inviting people to come visit Lan Su and learn about Chinese culture.” 

Police ask anyone with information about this case to call PPB’s non-emergency number at (503)823-3333 or email crimetips@police.portlandoregon.gov. Reference case no. 23-204060.

Hongcheng Zhao, the president and chairperson of the board for the Oregon Chinese Coalition, sent the following statement in response to the ongoing investigation:

The incident with Lan Su Chinese Garden was extremely unfortunate. When I received the call from  Lan Su Chinese Garden yesterday morning about the incident, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of sadness, though regrettably not surprise. The anti-Asian hate sentiment has been pervasive since the start of the pandemic. While condemning hate crimes is essential, addressing this issue must extend beyond individual actions and be tackled at the systemic level.

Chinatown holds significant cultural value as a district we, as a city, aim to preserve. However, the over-concentration of social service agencies in such a compact area has displaced Chinese Americans, turning cultural landmarks into isolated islands in a desert. Today’s incident is a reminder that if we don’t take real and concerted steps, not only from the community but also from the city and county, similar events will continue to happen.

It is crucial that we come together to foster a community where cultural heritage is not only respected but also celebrated, and where each resident feels safe and valued. As you can see today at Pioneer Courthouse Square, it is bustling with a lively crowd. While the weather is undoubtedly a major factor, we also recognize that many people have shown up just to express their support.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all those who have joined us today, sharing in the passion for cultural diversity and standing in solidarity with the Chinese American community. Your presence and support mean the world to us, and together, we can continue to build a more inclusive and compassionate community.

Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.