Foreigners – Asians included - are not allowed to operate stores in Moata’a.
This is a long-standing rule of the village, according to paramount chief, Asi Blakelock.
He was responding questions from the Sunday Samoan regarding a Chinese-owned store that’s been closed.
James Zhuang, a young Chinese businessman, operates the store. Efforts to expand his business led him to Moata’a where he invested $70,000 in renovation and merchandise.
“However, the day the store was supposed to open, the Moata’a village council stepped in and that’s when everything changed,” said Zhuang.
Asked for a comment, Asi told the Sunday Samoan, the landlord is one of his chiefs.
“The Village Council was informed the night before the store was to open. This new business came as a shock to us when we were informed that it would be operated by an Asian man."
“This has been a long standing rule of Moata’a which bans Asians from opening a business in our village."
“It’s not just Asians, the village also bans the selling of alcohol in the village stores. The ban of alcohol to be sold in our village was also not easily accepted and we have ousted several Chiefs in our village due to that ban.
“This is the decision by the village, put in place by our forefathers who had since passed away and we will not lift that ban.”
Asi is adamant the Village Council will not change the foundation of the village.
“The landlord should have consulted the Village Council first before he made a deal with the business man,” said Asi.
He also noted villages who have Asians operating stores are regretting allowing them in the first place.
“We have seen what they have done. Villages have curfews and these Asians do not respect the rules and regulations of the village."
“There was a request for the Chiefs to consider this one business however it was a unanimous decision by the Village Council to adhere to the rules of the Village."
“If we allow this one business, this will open the door to other Asians and we just don’t want that. We respect the Asians, but I’m sorry we cannot allow this to happen.”
He also noted that in Moata’a they only allow one denomination and it’s always been like that.
“We don’t want to change our rules; we don’t want to be like other villages that have moved away from their founding rules of the village.”
Zhuang of China claims he’s a victim of racism in Samoa. The young businessman has been in Samoa for more than five years and working at his father’s store in Apia.
“I spent $70,000 on the renovations and purchasing all of the goods for the store. It has been a month and the store is not open for business because the Village Council won’t allow us to operate in the village."
“I am in contact with the landlord who is trying his best to convince the village council they should reconsider their decision."
“I know I am a Chinese man, and that is why the village does not allow me to open my store, yet other Samoans have opened up new shop in Moata’a. I will bring no harm to the village; I will abide by the rules and regulations of the village council."
“If they want me to close on Sundays I will, and even at curfew times. Although I am not Samoan but I respect the rules of the village,” said Zhuang.
The businessman told the Samoa Observer the discrimination against him is not fair.
“We come here to live a better life than what China can provide, yet we are not given a chance because of the color of our skin. I understand that Samoans have their rules and because I want to live here and be a part of this society I can abide by those rules.
I was taught well by my father and I’m willing to do what it takes to fit into the Samoan community… sadly I have not been given a chance.”