Howard County police said six businesses were broken into Thursday night — and four of those were Asian-owned.
One is Kung Fu Tea, near The Mall in Columbia. Its front glass door was smashed and shattered, and cash was stolen. “Not only is this an act of violence within our community, but is also an attack against Asian Americans,” said resident Mike Wong, whose wife works at the bubble tea shop.
“This attack has really hit close to home.”
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Bonchon and Urban Hot Pot in Columbia also had cash stolen. Nearby Corner Bakery was broken into, but nothing was reported stolen. East Moon Asian Bistro in Ellicott City had cash stolen, and nearby Coal Fire Pizza was broken into but nothing was reported stolen.
Police are looking into whether the break-ins are all related.
“Detectives suspect this is part of a larger series of burglaries in the region in which the businesses were not all Asian-owned. But we are considering every possibility as we investigate these six cases from last week,” county police spokesperson Sherry Llewellyn said in an emailed statement.
Wong said the timing was concerning.
“These stores were attacked during Lunar New Year, which is very important in Asian cultures. And it also comes at a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans have been surging all around the country,” he said.
A GoFundMe campaign for Bonchon and Kung Fu Tea in Columbia raised more than $5,500 as of Monday afternoon.
“One thing that really attracted us to Columbia was, you know, that the diversity, racial and cultural diversity and just how safe the city just appeared to be. So this incident was really, truly unexpected,” Wong said.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball addressed the crimes on his Facebook page on Friday.
“Many of these restaurants are owned and operated by members of our Asian business community and feature Asian cuisine,” Ball said. “To have these crimes occur during the beginning of Lunar New Year — a time of great celebration and joy — is additionally sad and distressing.”