Puerta Del Sol, a busy plaza in Madrid's city center. (Xinhua)
Chinese businesses in Spain have largely returned to normal operations after Gao Ping, a high-profile local Chinese entrepreneur was accused of leading a criminal ring and subsequently arrested along with dozens of other people. The earnings of some Chinese-owned business have plunged in the wake of the incident while other Chinese firms are being extremely cautious as the reputation of the Chinese community in Spain takes a beating.
Gao and 57 other Chinese nationals were arrested during a raid by Spanish police on Oct. 16 as part of the country's effort to tackle organized crime. The police confiscated 11.5 million euros (US$14.8 million) in cash and seized 200 vehicles as well as jewelry worth over 600,000 euros (US$776,000), according to Shanghai's National Business Daily.
The arrests have had a profound impact on the relationship between the local Chinese community and Spanish society more widely, said Wang Shaoji, executive chairman of a Chinese business association in Spain and chairman of Euro Chinese News, Spain's largest Chinese-language newspaper. Some Chinese businesspeople said they fear for their businesses and even personal security as well as the possibility that the local environment will become still more inhospitable.
The number of charges Gao is facing has fallen from to three from an 13 originally. A Spanish court has granted bail to some of the arrested, though Gao and 24 others have been refused, according to China's National Business Daily. The government and elements of the media have conceded it was wrong to originally label the crimes as committed by "Chinese mafia".
Wang said hundred of employees at Gao's wholesale import company, Spanish International Trade City Group, protested in front of the headquarters of Spanish union demanding wages and unemployment benefits and calling for the company to be permitted to resume operations. However, the protesters are yet to reach a consensus with the union. Many Chinese businesses in Spain unconnected to Gao have suffered as a result of the incident with the reputation of the Chinese community badly tarnished, according to Shanghai media.
Wang conceded that the backlash against Chinese nationals in Spain is at least in part due to the habits of some Chinese living lavish lifestyles and flaunting wealth in a country mired in economic problems and with record high unemployment. He added some Chinese businesspeople continue to engage in outdated and questionable behavior.
Chinese consulates in Spain have met with local Chinese media to share information relating to the arrest on Oct. 23, Wang added, according to the National Business Daily.
Gao Ping 高平
Wang Shaoji 王紹基