Big trouble in little China

Chung Wah Association President Sammy Yap at the entrance to Chinatown, which he says is not operating anywhere near its potential. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d406584
Chung Wah Association President Sammy Yap at the entrance to Chinatown, which he says is not operating anywhere near its potential. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d406584

‘It is rundown and uninviting for people unfamiliar with the area. If you are new you wouldn’t feel safe walking in there because it is not brightly lit and there is graffiti and potholes,’ Mr Yap told Guardian Express.

‘I have been lobbying really hard for the last two-plus years for something to be done and I have been told that the government can’t be seen to be favouring the Chinese community. My response is that it’s not about the Chinese community, it’s about the city ” Chinatown is a feature of any city.

‘Finally, earlier this year, the premier held a press conference and announced the funding of $2 million to give a facelift to Chinatown in preparation for the City Link. They are looking at the Chinatown entry on Roe Street becoming the entrance to Northbridge from the city and it is great they are seeing it that way.’

Mr Yap said altering the region was difficult because more than 10 private proprietors owned the land.

‘The situation in Perth is very unique in that Chinatown is private property. In every other Australian city, it is public and that is why it has been an issue for so long,’ he said.

‘The problem is they all obviously have to agree on any changes.

‘There will be a workshop this month with the government and the owners and hopefully we’ll see results after it.’

Mr Yap said Chinatown had great potential but needed to be cleaned-up, better lit and ‘brought to life’.

‘It is dead during the day ” most of the restaurants and shops only open in the evening,’ he said.

‘The restaurants need to consider opening during the day and we could also create more open-air dining areas.

‘Also, there could be a building in the centre which has a market on the weekend. The next level could have a food court or teahouse and on the top, a rooftop pub ” you would attract people that way.

‘All of this is doable if the owners agree.’

Furthermore, he said Chinatown should expand into James Street, between Roe and William.

‘It’s going to be a political issue because they will talk about how people on the street who are not Chinese will feel about it,’ Mr Yap said.