Kwan Fai “Willie” Mak and Benjamin Ng were convicted of the killings and are serving life sentences. Wai Chiu “Tony” Ng (no relation to Benjamin) was found guilty of robbery and assault, and was deported to Hong Kong following his parole from prison.
The victims—cooks, restaurant workers, and owners mostly in their 50s and well known within the Chinese American community—knew their killers.
The shootings came less than a month after the Northwest Asian Weekly came into being, and a year after publisher Assunta Ng (no relation to Benjamin or Tony Ng) started the Seattle Chinese Post.
The phone was ringing off the hook with calls from the mainstream media. Ng was in a unique position to be a bridge between the mainstream media and the Chinese community, to be a reliable source and help the larger society understand the cultural behaviors and nuances.
Ng covered the killings in the days and weeks that followed.
“It is a tough part of our history and we don’t want to be reminded of it.”
The massacre stereotyped the Chinatown-International District (CID) as lawless, run amok with street gangs and vices. In addition, businesses dropped and people who depended on those jobs suffered. These businesses would not recover for years.
“It is not the past that we are proud of,” Ng said.
Yet today, four decades later, Ng said it is important to look back and ask—what has really changed?
In its 2022 crime report, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) stated that the CID had the overall largest shootings and shots fired increases compared to the previous year.
The 2015 murder of Donnie Chin is still not solved. More recently, the coronavirus outbreak and racially tinged fear kept visitors away from the CID. Violent radicals who hijacked the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 trashed CID business storefronts—leaving broken glass, garbage, and graffiti. Today, you still see evidence of that mayhem with some places still boarded up. Several businesses have gone out of businesses, closed, or moved away from the CID.
Just last week, there was another fire at a homeless encampment—this one turned up a stash of guns, cash, and drugs. In addition, SPD said, “It appears in the preliminary investigation, the fire may have been caused by elements of a methamphetamine lab.”
The mainstream media flocked to the CID after the Wah Mee incident, lookie-loos would snap photos of the site. Do we deserve attention only when bad stuff happens?
Mayor, City Councilmembers, County Councilmembers, Governor, and members of the State Legislature—we’re still here. Businesses have been decimated, violent crime is up, and some of the residents of the encampments have contributed to the CID’s struggle.
What has changed in the last 40 years? Are we in a better place? And what are you doing to help?