HomeChinese AmericanSan Jose to apologize for fire that destroyed its Chinatown

San Jose to apologize for fire that destroyed its Chinatown

The city of San Jose is expected to formally apologize Tuesday to the Chinese American community for its role in an arson fire which destroyed its Chinatown in 1887.

ABC7 News reports the fire ripped through what was known as the Second Market Street Chinatown, one of five Chinatowns which flourished between 1866 and 1931.

1,400 people lost their homes in that fire and were not given a chance to rebuild.


“The city said, ‘No. It’s a vile community and we don’t want it downtown,'” Gerrye Wong with the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project told ABC7 News.

According to the Mercury News, the city had designated the area a public nuisance.

“San José has worked to be an inclusive and welcoming city for all and that means facing head on its past mistakes,” said City Councilman Raul Peralez. “Our Chinese community has long been an important part of our city and this long overdue apology from the city will be a step forward towards much healing.”

The Fairmont Hotel currently sits on the site of the fire. A plague commemorating the fire was dedicated in 1987, but no formal apology was ever issued.

Connie Young Yu, a local historian, told ABC News the apology means a lot to her personally. Her grandfather was a teenager who managed to escape that fire in 1887.

“The apology by the city of San Jose for anti-Chinese policies comes very late, but it is deeply meaningful for the Chinese American community and symbolically offers peace and resolution,” Yu said. “The apology recognizes the hardships and struggles of our ancestors by the Chinese Exclusion Act which deprived Chinese naturalization to U.S. citizens, inciting cities to drive out the Chinese by outlaw violence or legal methods.”

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