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'These Are Very Real Worries': Chicago's Chinatown Still Concerned About Increase Of Hate Crimes

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Monday marked two years since the first COVID case in Illinois.

An Illinois woman, originally from China, had just returned from Wuhan. That case and others like it sparked hate crimes in Chicago and around the country.

As CBS 2's Chris Tye explains, fear of retribution remains so real, some cultural institutions in the area have remained closed for years out of fear.

In Chinatown, there still remains a concern about personal safety, namely among elderly Asian Americans. It's a concern that began at the start of the pandemic but very much continues to this day.

"These are very real worries a lot of people are having."

Some Buddhist temples in Chicago have been closed for the two years since the pandemic began. One part is COVID concern, one part fear of reprisals from pockets of the community who blame Asian Americans for the pandemic.

"My parents live in the Bay area, they are still afraid to be in public spaces, still afraid to go outside," said Catherine Shieh of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago.

In Chicago that fear was amplified last month with the shooting death of 71-year-old Woom Sing Tse in Chinatown.

"It's not simply that hate is gone. It's not that we have less incidences. I think some of them has morphed. I think there is more reporting two years ago and less reporting now," Shieh said.

A report from "Stop Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Hate" found one in five Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have experienced a hate incident the past year.

Chicago police track hate crimes by race. For three years starting in 2018, the city saw two anti-Asian hate crimes per year. Last year it jumped to seven.

"Using terms like Wuhan virus or Kung-Flu."

Catherine Shieh with Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago said language was followed by action, often violence, but inaction by leaders needs to change.

"It is easy to lose track of what is happening. And it's easy to believe that if it's not being reported on in the news, the problem must be over," Shieh said.

Stories of crime often end with a vigil or funeral. Insiders said it needs to change with policy, particularly as it relates to mental health, housing and education.

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