Student deaths shake Chinese communities

Updated: 2014-07-30 06:46

By CHANG JUN (China Daily USA)

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Chinese communities throughout the United State were saddened by the deaths last week of a 24-year-old Chinese graduate student at the University of Southern California (USC), who was beaten on his way to his apartment and died there, and a 59-year-old Chinese research professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) after being mugged during his lunchtime walk on a street.

The two tragedies have stirred a heated debate among Asian Americans on a number of topics, including safety and security concerns for Chinese immigrants, nurturing a healthy society with zero tolerance for speech that is full of hatred or prejudice in any disguise, gun control and understanding the causes of crime.

First and foremost, the Chinese community should stay alert and vigilant toward any criminal attempts against it, said Yibing He, a media commentator in San Francisco. "In recent years, we have cried too many times over losses of young lives. We need to be more sensitive to our safety and security and make sure we Asian Americans won't be easy target for crimes," she said.

USC student Ji Xinran was allegedly hit on the head with a baseball bat by at least one of four suspects aged 16 to19, according to Los Angeles police on Monday. Ji was retuning to his off-campus dormitory from a study group when he was attacked, police said, and still managed to stumble to his apartment where he was found dead on Thursday morning.

"He was literally beaten to death," Los Angeles Police Commander Andrew Smith said at a news briefing on Monday. "I don't know why a group of young people would go on a crime spree as terrible as this."

Police said they arrested Jonathan DelCarmen, 19, and Andrew Garcia, 18, on suspicion of homicide. Two juveniles — a 17-year-old male and a 16-year-old female whose names were not released because of their ages — were arrested on suspicion of murder, assault with a deadly weapon and robbery.

In April 2012, Chinese graduate students Wu Ying and Qu Ming, both 23 and majoring in electric engineering at USC, were shot dead during a botched robbery just several blocks away off campus.

In May of this year, three young men from Chinese immigrant families were killed by Elliot Rodger during his killing rampage in the Isla Vista neighborhood at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Weihan "David" Wang, Cheng Yuan "James" Hong and George Chen were from the San Francisco Bay Area; all were studying computer science, and all were stabbed to death at the apartment they shared with Rodger. Rodger killed three other people and injured 13 before committing suicide.

Arthur Dong, president of the North California Hebei Friendship Association, said he believed there is a lack of resources and programs on the USC campus to make the university safe enough. "I can't believe the similar kind of murder happening to Chinese students again on the same campus," Dong said.

Like many American universities, USC has a big international student population. According to the statistic on USC's website, 3,771 Chinese students attended USC in the school year 2012-2013.

According to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, China has sent about 240,000 students to study in the US in 2013, an increase of 21 percent from the previous year.

With majority of students being the only child of Chinese families since the nation launched its "one child policy" in 1970s, parents with children studying abroad have ample reasons to ask US institutions of higher learning to do a better job of safeguarding the safety of their beloved ones, said community leaders in the Bay Area.

In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Liu Feng, a research scientist in UNC's Eshelman School of Pharmacy, was assaulted and robbed in a residential area on July 24, police said. He died the next day.

Police said information from a passerby helped lead them to the suspects, 23-year-old Derick Davis II, and 27-year-old Troy Arrington Jr. They were arrested overnight and charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery.

Liu received his undergraduate and master's degrees in pharmaceutical science at Shenyang Pharmaceutical University in China and his doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh's school of pharmacy. He had been working at UNC for 10 years in the areas of genetics and drug delivery, conducting cancer research and leading a team of graduate students on projects funded by the National Institutes of Health, according to UNC sources.

"I am heartbroken over this horrible tragedy," Chancellor Carol Folt of UNC said in a statement. "I want to assure you that safety and security of students, faculty, staff and visitors on Carolina's campus and in the surrounding community is my highest priority."

Although no direct connection has been made between the two deaths and the recent discriminatory remarks made by Fox News Channel host Bob Beckel, leaders of Asian-American communities have called on US mainstream media outlets and politicians to avoid such negative commentaries against Chinese immigrants.

Chinese Americans in the US deserve a much more favorable environment to live in; "to attack one immigrant group is to attack all immigrant groups, and attacking on the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender, and language is never acceptable," said San Jose City Council member Kansen Chu.

On his July 10 taped talk show Five, Beckel, a former Democratic Party operative, went on a rant saying: "Chinese are the single biggest threat to the national security of the US. Do you know what we just did? As usual, we bring them over here and teach a bunch of Chinamen, uh, Chinese people, how to do computers, and then they go back to China and hack us."

Chinese-American groups in the United States have expressed their anger over Beckel's comments and called on Fox News to fire him. Albert Wang, the San Francisco Bay Area chairman of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association, said Chinese Americans play a pivotal role in the development of advanced technology in the United States, making up half of Silicon Valley's scientists and engineers. "We were deeply hurt by Beckel's words," Wang said.

In a written statement issued on July 12, California State Senator Ted Lieu called for Beckel's immediate resignation, as did Congress members Judy Chu and Mike Honda. However, on July 14 Beckel responded with only a gestural apology for his use of the term "Chinamen" and reiterated his stance on China's being a national security threat to the US.

"It's my observation that our culture does not often react with the same sensitivity to offenses against the Chinese community as it does for blacks, Latinos, or Native Americans," said California Senator Bob Huff. "I believe what we are really looking for is to receive the same amount of respect as everyone else… But as a society we aren't there yet."

Although there is still a long way to go for Chinese Americans to fight for their civic rights in the US, "we are ready for whatever it might takes to achieve our goals as a united group," said Dong.

junechang@chinadailyusa.com

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