Chinese-only signs in Richmond


Business signs in Richmond, B.C.
Photo by Richard Lam/The Province

Chinese-only signs in Richmond
The debate
Adapted from The Province by Nila Gopaul
Level 3

Listen to “Chinese-only signs in Richmond”– Level 3
Reading by Nila Gopaul 

The city of Richmond has
a population of 200,000.
The city has a large ethnic Chinese population.
About 50 per cent of residents
are ethnic Chinese.
About 30 per cent are whites.
Eight per cent are South Asians.
Seven per cent are Filipinos.

Since 2013, Richmond has been debating
Chinese-only signage.
Many residents are unhappy
with Chinese-only signs, flyers, posters and ads
on bus shelters, stores and businesses.
Some people want a bylaw.
A bylaw would include English on all signs.

These people feel Richmond is “very soft“.
They say the city does not want to upset people.
They feel Richmond city council
needs to be tougher.

Other people feel a bylaw
would not be fair.
Businesses know their customers.
English is not always necessary.

One group called The Signs of Harmony Project,
urges businesses to include English on their signs.
“Having a Chinese-only sign
does not show respect
to the country you’ve chosen to live in,”
said Tung Chan, former head of SUCCESS.
Tung lives in Richmond.
“If we can all be in harmony
with each other, we can all be more prosperous.”

On May 25, 2015, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie
said the city would change
some of the city’s sign bylaws.
English will not be mandatory on signs.
But the city will ask businesses
to reduce the number of signs on their wiindows.
“Sometimes you have stores that
are far too cluttered with signage…” says the mayor.


  1. residents:  people who live somewhere
  2. signage: all signs, especially for businesses
  3. city council: a group that governs a city or town
  4. bylaw: a rule to control the actions of its members, such as residents
  5. soft: not strong
  6. urges: advises very strongly
  7. mandatory: ordered by law or rule; something you must do
  8. cluttered:  to put too many things in a place so that it looks untidy; messy

Click this link to read about the Choi Project and their bilingual signage.
In 1886, business started in Chinatown in Vancouver, B.C.
For 100 years, most customers were Chinese-speaking.
Now Chinatown is changing.
Ken Lau says, “Some only speak English.”
So Ken makes English signs.
He puts them beside his vegetables.
“Now business is getting better,” says Ken.