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Chinese national Yu Lai-bao in Kingstown on Saturday evening. (iWN file photo)
Chinese national Yu Lai-bao in Kingstown on Saturday evening. (iWN file photo)
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The Chinese man who has been living mostly on the streets of Kingstown since June says he is considering ending his life, as he sees this as his only option.

“Everyday I am in this situation. If I don’t kill myself, what would happen to me? I don’t have a ticket home. What next?” Yu Lai-bao, 54, told iWitness News on Saturday.

“What other choice do I have? I don’t have any way of going back to China. I have no way of making money here. In China, I used to make a few thousand renminbi a month,” he said, referring to the currency used in China. (EC$1 = approx. 2.37 renminbi.)

“Since June, I have not made any money. My wife gives me something from the money she makes. Everyday I eat bread,” he further said in Mandarin Chinese.

Yu, who speaks no English, expressed himself in Mandarin Chinese in a follow-up interview with iWitness News in Kingstown, on Saturday afternoon, two days after he first spoke to us.

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In the intervening period, iWitness News learned that his relationship with his Chinese ex-boss, Yu Lai-jin, went sour because Lai-bao stole money from his boss and sent it back to China to help pay off debts.

Lai-jin is based in China and his son, who Lai-bao identified as Yu Wen-xing, but who introduced himself to iWitness News as Yu Xinger, is heading their operation in St. Vincent, which is made up of the three New Century Trading stores in Kingstown.

Lai-bao lived in Arnos Vale on the ground floor of a house, where Xinger and his mother lived on the upper floor.

Lai-bao’s wife, their son, their son’s wife and two other Chinese nationals also live on the ground floor of the house.

iWitness News also learned that since Xinger threw him out on the street, Lai-bao has  lived with three other Vincentians, each of whom also threw him out amidst various allegations.

When asked about why he no longer lived with each of the Vincentians, Lai-bao willingly spoke about the allegation and gave his side of the story, noting that he had been unable to explain himself properly to his hosts because of the language barrier.

He further clarified that on June 18, when Xinger threw him out after a fight, it was not because he had refused to run an errand.

Rather, it was because Lai-bao had maintained that his boss should buy his return ticket to China, they having decided to send him back before three years had elapsed, as agreed.

Relatives or just friends?

In an interview on Friday, Xinger denied that his father and Lai-bao are paternal cousins, saying they are only friends and live in the same community in Fujian, China.

However, in a separate interview, also on Friday, Xinger’s wife, who speaks some English, told iWitness News, in both English and Mandarin, that Xinger and Lai-bao are “relatives”.

Xinger told iWitness News that Lai-bao, his wife and their son came to St. Vincent because “they owe people a lot of money in China and they can’t make money in China to pay. They told my parents that they need a job and can come and work for us.”

But iWitness News noted that Lai-bao had said that he and Xinger’s father are paternal cousins and we further noted that they have the same surname.

“He is lying. We just live in the same area. His surname is Yu, the same as mine. In China, people in the same area have the same surname. My house is located like here, where the store [New Century Trading, in Sprotts Plaza] is, and his house is at the police headquarters.”

Xinger said that his parents told Lai-bao that they have no problem giving him a job. The agreement was that Lai-bao, his wife and son would come to St. Vincent and work with his compatriots for three years and the host family would pay for the work permit and residency application. Further, Xinger’s family would also be responsible for providing meals and lodging. “They would not spend any money,” Xinger said.

However, if Lai-bao or any member of his family decided to return to China before three years, they would be responsible for their return ticket. “Because, you came here, you did not have to pay for anything. We pay for everything. Do you know that a one-year visa is $4,800 for one person? And a ticket from China to here is a lot of money,” Xinger said.

Lai-bao, in the initial and follow up interviews, told iWitness News that those were the terms of his employment with Xinger’s family.

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(iWN file photo)

Theft of money leads to fight

Xinger suggested that we ask workers at their New Central Trading store on Upper Bay Street what Lai-bao had done in the business and about his work ethic.

However, when pushed, Xinger said that Lai-boa would be on his cellphone during work hours. “And just one word: lazy. Afterwards, we saw him steal money from the cash register. I did not want to make it a problem for him so I asked him how much he stole. He said, ‘I just took $100 to buy something.’ I said, ‘Just $100?’ I said, ‘Come on! It’s more than $100.’ But I left it at that because I did not have any proof of how much he had stolen.”

Xinger told iWitness News that Lai-bao stole a lot of money from the business and asked people to send it back to China. He said that he told Lai-bao that if he did not say how much money he had actually stolen he would have him arrested.  

“He then said that he had sent back more than EC$20,000. If someone steals money, they won’t say, ‘I stole a lot.’ They would say, ‘I stole a little.’ Like the first time I asked him, he said, ‘I just stole $100. You believe that? Nobody believes that but I did not find anything to prove anything that he stole. It was after he transferred the money to China that I found out.

“I have the receipt where he sent more than EC$20,000 to China. The document is at the police station. After that happened, we spoke to him, but he did not say anything. We took him to the CID and Sergeant Browne was handling the case.”

A police source told iWitness News, on Sunday, that the Yus had filed a complaint about theft of money and they had come to an agreement with Lai-bao to repay the amount.

Xinger said that Lai-bao sent back the money to China in August 2020.

“I asked him how he was able to steal so much money. He said, ‘If business is good, I would steal $200. If it is not good, sometimes I would take $100.’ If people buy something, I just take $100.’

Xinger said that after this, they told Lai-bao that they could not handle him anymore and he had to stop working with them.

“After all that happened, he was still living with me. We did not throw him out. He was living with me at my house.”

Asked why they did not send Lai-bao back to China, Xinger said, “We could not find a plane ticket.”

He said that they had gone to the Immigration Department, which was also helping them to find a ticket.

“The last two months, we have been checking. We bought a ticket for Nov. 7 and the flight was cancelled because of the COVID situation.”

Xinger admitted to iWitness News that he was involved in the fight on June 18, when they eventually threw Lai-bao out of the house.

He said that his family had reminded Lai-bao about the arrangement regarding paying his way back if he leaves before the end of three years.

“And he said, ‘I can’t pay for the ticket. You have to pay for the ticket for me.’ He was cursing, arguing; cursing my mom. Because of that, I was very vexed. Nobody curses my mom.”

“Nobody could talk to him and that’s why I called my cousin, Mr. Xi to come to deal with the situation, to talk to him.”

He said that after Mr. Xi arrived and was trying to resolve the issue, Lai-boa did not want to listen and pushed Mr. Xi.

“You might have seen the video before, where we were fighting. That’s why the fight broke out. He (Lai-bao) took up something to beat him (Mr. Xi) and that’s how we started to fight.

“After I saw the fighting I took up a stick to stop the fight and that’s why I took up the stick to beat him.”

Xinger said he called the police and told them that he could not allow Lai-bao to live with them because he is “a dangerous guy”.

“I threw him before he did something crazy, like burn my house out. He then lived at my workers’ homes. Later, you can ask my workers what he did at their homes.”

Xinger said that one of his employees saw Lai-bao steal rat poison from one of the stores.

“He was living at one of my female employee’s home and she said, ‘What is he taking rat poison for?’ And we called the police to tell him to bring them back. She told him he was crazy and had to leave because she was afraid he would do something crazy at her house…

“Nobody knows what’s going on. They just see him and say he is pitiful. They don’t know what’s going on.”

Xinger said that he still has Lai-bao’s passport and wanted to hand it over to the Immigration, which told him to hold on to it and send Lai-Bao back when they find a ticket.

Regarding Lai-bao claims that he would leave on Nov. 15. Xinger said:

“No. There is no flight on the 15th. How would he know that? The immigration is helping us to check to see if there is any way to send him back.

“I tell you, I have done business in St. Vincent for 10 years. This has never happened. It is the first time. He gave us headaches.”

Xinger said that he had brought “a lot” of Chinese people to work with him before.

“Nobody else gave us problems. If you steal money, you apologise. He’s like he is the big boss. He speaks louder than you. What is he doing? Stealing money, arguing, cursing, fighting.”

Xinger said that Lai-bao’s wife and son are still working with him “because they owe people money in China — because they don’t have money to pay.

“We have tried our best already. He has lived in three places since and it is he who did crazy things and caused people to throw him out. Tell me what I should do.”

Wife: ‘I don’t care about him.’

iWitness News also spoke, on Friday, to Lai-bao’s wife at the same branch of New Century Trading where Xinger had come for the interview.

Mrs. Yu, who spoke in Mandarin, asked not to be recorded and started crying soon after she began speaking about her husband’s situation.

She said that they have a lot of debts in China and therefore, came to St. Vincent with the understanding that the three of them would be paid 180,000 renminbi (about EC$76,000) annually.

She did not speak flatteringly of her husband, saying that the drinks and that she used to beat him in China but gives him $20 a day since he was thrown out on the street.

Mrs. Yu said that her husband had said that he wants to kill himself and she told him not to do it in St. Vincent but to wait until he returns to China.

Asked how she feels about her husband living on the street, she responded, “I don’t care about him.”

“Then why are you crying?” iWitness News asked, and she said because of the sadness of the situation.

Xinger, who was standing close by during the interview, said, in Chinese, that Lai-bao is the one causing trouble for his wife and son.

‘The man is contemplating suicide.’

Also, on Friday, iWitness News spoke to a Vincentian man who was Lai-bao co-worker at New Century Trading, with whom the Chinese man lived after being expelled from Xinger’s home.

“He used to be living on the street and his son asked me to help him out and said they could give me a little money to help out the situation. I had helped him out, but they didn’t really give me any money but I was still trying to help. But he picked up a habit on the streets of Kingstown — drinking strong rum and coming in my place and disrespecting me. So I threw him out.”

The man said that the police had had Lai-bao in custody and his wife and son did not like that and asked him to take in Lai-bao and he agreed.

“But he drinks rum over there (Chinatown) and carries on nasty and worthless. He would come here and curse his wife when he wants money. He has lived with three persons,” the worker told iWitness News, adding that Lai-bao took rat poison to another of his Vincentian former co-workers’ house, saying he was going to drink it.

“The man is contemplating suicide. He is frustrated. First, when he was by me, he asked what the St. Vincent government would do about it if he kills himself. I told him, ‘No, that is not nice.’

“He said he would do that to please the big boss, which is Xinger’s father, because they are saying he took money. And it seems as if it is something serious that he did — that he broke a bond among the Chinese. It seems that that is their culture and he broke their culture…

“He used to drink beers but he never used to drink that much and carry on like that. The man is frustrated. I can understand that. He told me he has repaid his  boss EC$40,000. I want to know what kind of money he was making to pay them back $40,000. That’s what he told me. The boss told me Lai-bao took over EC$20,000 from them.

“He is drinking because he is frustrated. I can tell you that. He and I would be at home and he would say, ‘I’m thinking too much. Let us drink 3 for $10,’” Lai-bao’s former employer told iWitness News, adding that they used Google translate to communicate.

Yu Lai-bao wants to return to his home in Fujian, a province in southeastern China.

Clandestine photo

iWitness News also spoke with another of Lai-bao’s former co-workers, a woman who had also taken him in and gave him her room while she slept in her sister’s room. She, however, said that sometime later, she told Lai-bao that he would have to leave because she was going to repair the room.

The woman said that she later learned from the male co-worker with whom Lai-bao previously lived, that Lai-bao had clandestinely taken a photo of her in her tights and bra. She woman said she believed it, because one morning, she was rushing for work, and went into the room where Lai-bao was staying as her clothes were still in that room.

She said that she knew that Lai-Bao was in the room when she went inside and saw him on his phone. “I was not looking for him to have such an idea inside his head. Like whatever he did,” the woman said, at first not disclosing that Lai-bao had taken a photo.

When asked what exactly Lai-bao had done, she said, “He took a picture with me wearing girdle tights and my bra.” She said when she told Lai-bao that he had to leave the house, she had not known that had taken the photo.

The woman told iWitness News that it was sometime later that the male co-worker with whom Lai-bao had lived asked her if she knew that Lai-bao had taken a photo of her in her undergarment.

She said she had taken Lai-abo in because they got along well when they worked together.

Lai-bao’s son later asked the woman to take him back in but she refused. She said that if he had not taken the photo “it would not have been a possibility” that she would have taken him in again. The woman said that she did not see the photo that Lai-bao took but the way their coworker described it to her, “it definitely was taken the morning when I was searching my stuff.

“He used to be quiet. He would be there, he did not speak English, I did not communicate with him. If he had something to say, he would put it on his phone and translate it into English and I would read it.”

She said that another issue was that one morning Lai-bao came to the store and picked up some rat poison. “He cussed the boss but I don’t know what they talked about because they speak a different language. She probably thought I had rats. Then after he said no, he took them to eat. I chased him, he came back that night and I allowed him to sleep there. And then after I decided to repair the room I told him he had to leave.

“I did not know, to be honest, that he had taken the picture before I told him he had to leave. But after I found out that he had taken the picture I eventually told his son I do not want him there.”

The woman said she was not sure why their boss threw Lai-bao out of the house and only the video of the fight long after it had occurred.

“I really don’t want to get into their stuff because. I didn’t bring him (Lai-bao) here.

Yu Lai bao 3
Yu Lai-bao show photos of injuries he said he sustained when he was beaten on June 18.

‘… it’s like human trafficking’

iWitness News spoke, on Friday, with another Vincentian woman whose family had taken Lai-bao in to live with them.

The woman, who operates a liquor and provision shop in Chinatown, Kingstown, said that Lai-bao came to her business through a friend and they used to drink there.

“He came here and we got so accustomed to him and felt sorry for him so we took him home one night when he said he had nowhere to go, he had to sleep on the street.

“He was by me for over a month and some. He said he was to go back this month. Seeing that we got accustomed to him and we felt so sorry for him, I told him he could have stayed by us until he was ready to go. But then certain things turned up and I had to put him out.”

Asked what those “certain things” were, she said:

“We have an upstairs and downstairs house and he was downstairs and my granddaughter caught him peeping on her,” the woman said, adding that her granddaughter is 22 years old.

The woman said that her boyfriend confronted Lai-bao and told him he had to leave.

That was in September.

Asked if she thinks that Lai-bao has a problem with alcohol, the woman told iWitness News:

“We were saying he was frustrated because of being on the street and he was living with those people and then he was saying he isn’t getting any work and the way that they treat him.

“If you talk to him, he would show you a picture where they beat him up and chopped him in his head and so on. He was at the police station. We used to go to the police station and look for him.”

The woman said that while Lai-bao cannot speak English “certain things you could know what he is saying. I find that he drinks because he is frustrated,” the said, adding that she did not know Lai-bao before he started to visit her bar.

She said that customers who know about his circumstances would buy a drink for him. “Sometimes he would drink but he drinks a lot of water. Every time you see him, he has a bottle of water and he is always drinking it. But I think that is a sad situation, bringing people here — it’s like human trafficking.

“And then you throw him out. It’s best if they send him back home. But I did not have any issues with him. Because I have my granddaughter there and I don’t want anybody to [invade her privacy]. Different to that, he was OK,” the woman said.

Admission and denials

On Saturday afternoon, iWitness News again spoke with Lai-bao who said that his family owes over 300,000 renminbi.

He maintained that he and his ex-boss, Xinger’s father, who is based in China, are cousins and that it was his boss who asked him to come to St. Vincent to work with him.  “We are related? We are not just friends. If we are not related, why would I come here to work for EC$2,000?” Lai-bao said, adding that his cousin wanted him to come to St. Vincent to help keep an eye on the store, not trusting Vincentians to do so.

“I was responsible for collecting the money and when I did, I took a little of it and sent it back to China. He found out and I paid him back — about 30,000 renminbi,” Lai-bao said, adding that one of his Chinese friends helped him to send the money back and may have been the one to disclose what he had done.

He said that when the issue of the missing money arose, he was arrested.  “The police said, ‘You are relatives. You should find a way of resolving this,” Lai-bao said, adding that the money has been repaid.

“He took the money from the money that my wife and son made.”

Yu Lai bao 2
Yu Lai-bao says he has been surviving on bread. (iWN photo)

Lai-bao also revealed that in St. Vincent, he and his family are paid their wages at the end of the year, rather than monthly. “I had to work for a year before I was paid. At the end of that year, he would give me that year’s wages. I was not paid the EC$2,000 every month,” he said.

He further explained that the arrangement is for each of them to be paid 5,000 renminbi per month, which converts to about EC$2,000. However, the money is not paid to them in St. Vincent, but to their creditors in China, where Xinger’s father is based.

In the interim, if his family needs money to use in St. Vincent, they would “borrow” it from Xinger and his mother until the end of the year, when the calculations are made.

Lai-bao said that on June 18, he heard his boss’ wife (Xinger’s mother) telling his wife that they are going to send him back to China and that he has to buy his own ticket. “My son and I went up and I said, ‘You are sending me back and want me to buy my own ticket?… They beat my son and I.” Xinger called his cousin and they ganged up on Lai-bao and his son, he said.

Lai-bao confirmed that since his boss’ son threw him out he has lived with three Vincentians. “I spoke to him loudly and he threw me out,” he said of the male co-worker with whom he lived.

Laibao said he drinks because of the stress of his situation and that is why his former co-worker threw him out. He, however, said that he does not drink rum, as the rum in St. Vincent is too strong for him. “It is 80% proof. In China, our rum is 45 to 65%. How can I drink that rum you have here in St. Vincent?” he told iWitness News, adding that he tried it once, when a Vincentian offered him a drink.

He admitted taking a photo of the female ex-co-worker but said it was not done clandestinely. “She knew I had taken the photo. She only got angry because I showed our [male] co-worker.”

Regarding the incident at the home of the female shopkeeper who had taken him in, Lao-bai said:  “Her [grand]daughter was in the bathroom and I went inside. I knocked the door but nobody answered. When I went inside I realised that she was inside and I immediately exited the room.”

Lai-bao seemed reluctant as he admitted that his wife used to beat him in China. He said that this has never happened in St. Vincent, but a few days earlier they had had an argument after his male ex-co-worker took a photo standing next to Lai-bao’s wife and showed it to him.

“I asked her, ‘Why did you take a photo with him?’” That’s why we argued.  “I was not pleased. That guy is bad; very bad. In front of the boss’ face, he says nice things and in front of my face, he says nice things. Then behind our backs, he says bad things about both of us.”

Lai bao on streets
The streets of Kingstown have become Yu Lai-bao’s home. (iWN photo)

Lai-bao denied asking his former co-worker what the government would do if he killed himself.

“What I told him was that my boss is responsible for me and he threw me out so I will kill myself and let my boss see what things are like.

“I did not just decide to come here. He brought me here. Once I am here, he is responsible for me. He invited me here to work for him then threw me out on the street. Because he treated me this way, I would kill myself and create problems for him.”

He said that his older son, who is in China had already told Xinger’s father, who is also in China, that he would see what would happen if Lai-bao dies in St. Vincent. “In St. Vincent, my wife and son might be afraid of them and they can use the police here to scare me. But in China, I am not afraid of them.”

Lai-bao denied Xinger’s claim that he had stopped working before June 18 or that he is lazy.

“I am lazy? I had to do all of the work. The boss and his wife all said I was a good worker. His store was flooded out. I woke up at five a.m. to clean it up and worked until midnight and he still calls me lazy?…The money I make in China is more than in St. Vincent. My family decided to come here because we can save the money we make and pay off our debts.”

‘There is no free lunch’

On Sunday, a woman offered to rent a room for Lai-bao in Campden Park, saying that it is unfurnished but she could provide a bed and pay the monthly rent.

He, however, refused the offer, saying, “There is no free lunch. My cousin brought me here and threw me out on the street. Where am I going to get money to pay for water and electricity? The owner of this fruit stall is a good man. I’d rather sleep on the street here,” Lai-bao said and started to cry.

He was referring to Maxwell Sayers of Role Model Fruits, a 24-hour fruit stall on Bay Street, where Lai-bao spends the night.

On Saturday, Lai-bao expressed fear that someone might maliciously attack him in St. Vincent.

4 replies on “Homeless Chinese man in St. Vincent contemplating suicide”

  1. Hashtag Prince says:

    Look…. easy solution—Send the man back to China with his family!!!
    They are nuisances to the public!

  2. Why devote such an overly lengthy article about a homeless foreigner when there are countless homeless and poverty stricken Vincentian nationals ‘in the same boat’, if not worse? I just don’t get it !! He need to get his behind back to China rather than being a burden to us.

  3. You should understand that the man didn’t mean he was imminently about to commit suicide. He used that comment more as a figure of speech. Chinees people are quite resilient. And they have a way of life that is very different to ours. They are usually hard workers. But airing other people’s dirty laundry is always intriguing to the melee and comess inclined.. Fighting is common in all cultures so that fight scene doesn’t mean that this is the norm among Chinees. Of course this gentleman is in deep shit seeing he has a drinking problem. And, on top of that the situation of little or no employment opportunity available in the country only makes things worse. Covid19 has busted everybody’s balls (figure of speech)even in our small population but, I think we will eventually pull through, we always do. But now is a time when government should be strengthening the socials safety nets. Maybe the charity organizations needs government support to function properly. But most people with nothing else to do will be bashing to powers that be and justly so because those donkeys in power have no resolve. But their salaries are secure and their households are not feeling the pressure the way poor people do. I can’t wait to hear the next excuse after covid19 to not improve people’s living standards. Stewps.

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